Green Party Angered as DUP Block Living Wage Amendment with Petition of Concern

Green Party Leader Steven Agnew MLA has described the DUP’s most recent use of the petition of concern (POC) as ‘disgraceful and undemocratic’.

It emerged late last night that the DUP had filed a POC against Mr Agnew’s amendment to the Education Bill seeking to introduce a living wage and pay-scale ratio for all employees of the new education authority in Northern Ireland.

The Education Bill at Consideration Stage is to be debated in the Assembly today and the DUP has filed 10 POCs in relation to this.

“Again, the DUP has played the Joker card in the form of the POC to simply block something they disagree with,” the North Down MLA said.

“That is certainly not respectful to the democratic process and with this move the DUP have not only shown their contempt for democracy but also for the lowest paid workers in our society.

“Any party who leaves the current talks process without having the petition of concern removed from our system is not fit for government.

“It has been used over 60 times, mainly by SF and the DUP, to block things like parts of the Planning Bill and to stop the admonishment of Nelson McCausland, showing that it is being used to protect party interests.

“That is not what it was envisaged to do.

“The POC once had a legitimate use – to stop one party dominating the Assembly and to guard against sectarianism.

“But it has been abused so much by the dominant political parties that they are now just using it as another tool in their arsenal to get their own way.

“Now, the POC has simply become a tool for the biggest parties to shut down what they don’t like.

“Because of its abuse, the petition of concern has become a block to meaningful political progress, a block to the will of the Assembly and a mechanism to enshrine sectarian division.

“If the main parties can’t use the petition of concern for what it was intended, then it really has to go.”

21 October 2014

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