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Assembly Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Alex Attwood Alex Attwood Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30 pm, 9th March 1999

Before getting into the detail of the debate, there is a broader point which needs to be made. Members are discussing scrutiny mechanisms for the Chamber and the Government, but one of the issues which the Assembly will ultimately have to address is "the people’s scrutiny mechanism". That will require a Freedom of Information Act to enable the people whom Members are elected to serve to have their own methods of scrutinising the work of the Assembly, the work of all the other institutions of Government in the North, and the work of the public service generally.

I find some DUP comments rather superficial. If Members thought more broadly for a minute they would realise that the pro-agreement parties, which created the Good Friday Agreement, and the pro-agreement community, which endorsed the agreement, endorsed, among other things, the building into the political society that we are creating of fundamental scrutiny mechanisms. I am referring to the Equality Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

It is somewhat superficial and obvious to criticise people who have a different view on how that scrutiny is carried out. Those same people struggled over many weeks and months to create an agreement which included scrutiny mechanisms for equality, policy, practice and human rights generally in the North.

That is the starting point for all the pro-agreement parties on the scrutiny of Government, human rights practices and equality issues. The anti-agreement parties were hostile to the agreement and those specific proposals, and it is somewhat obvious, cheap and superficial now to criticise us when we speak about scrutinising mechanisms.