General Election 2024: Executive Ministers

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 28 May 2024.

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Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party 10:45, 28 May 2024

Mr Speaker, I welcome you back to the Chair, as Mr Brett did. I also associate myself with the remarks that were made about the abhorrent and appalling actions of the Netanyahu regime in Rafah over the past few days and endorse what was said about Palestinian statehood and Ireland recognising it. That is a huge step forward, but, sadly, it is not enough at the minute for the innocent people cowering in Gaza.

We know that the public of Northern Ireland do not think very much of this institution, and they do not think very much of politics or politicians here in general. We have been back in the Chamber and around the Executive table for less than four months. In that time, we have debated motion after motion, most of which have acknowledged the collapsing state of our public services. All of the parties that entered into the Executive and, indeed, the Opposition have acknowledged the parlous state of our finances and our public services. The public, in that context, rightly and understandably expected their politicians at a devolved level to be 100% focused on dealing with those issues, particularly those who were fortunate enough to take up ministerial office and sign the Pledge of Office. Therefore, it is profoundly disappointing, to say the least, that, in the past few days, after the election was called, we have found out that at least two Executive Ministers will run for office. Three and a half months into the Executive's being restored, with our public finances in a state of utter collapse and our public services in ruin, Ministers who solemnly took the Pledge of Office are running to leave office.

We wonder why people distrust politics. We wonder why people have contempt for Stormont. Then, the Health Minister, with the NHS among the worst health services in western Europe, resigns, as we found out, at midnight tonight, and the Justice Minister, days after telling us of the parlous state of our justice system, says that she will resign to run for a Back-Bench position.

My party will always acknowledge the importance of Westminster. We hope to send as many SDLP MPs back as possible to stand up for this place and, hopefully, get rid of the Tory regime. However, when leaders who have carved out a niche, including, it has to be said, the leader of the Alliance Party, in calling out others for walking away from devolution at the first opportunity walk away or seek to walk away from devolution, that, I am afraid, has to be called out. We can all play party political games, but, when we came back here in February, we said that our priority was public services. It is a shame that —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Mr O'Toole, your time has gone.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

— certain Executive Ministers are not standing by that.