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NI Bill won’t save Assembly… only a change in attitudes will do that

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Nowhere is the old lament that “whoever you vote for, the government always gets in” truer than in Northern Ireland. And from September, not only will it get back in, but ministers will have squatters’ rights to stay a while, irrespective of how the people voted.

This week took your correspondent to Westminster, via the front room Zoom, to give evidence on the Northern Ireland Bill proceeding through Parliament.

Soon to pass unopposed, the Bill is designed to secure the Assembly and Executive. It concentrates mainly upon keeping the Stormont ship afloat by making it unsinkable, rather like the Titanic.

No arguments about the lifeboats at least, as ministers in the Executive would be obliged to remain at their posts as the ship went down.

Currently, seven days are allowed to nominate a new First and Deputy First Minister if vacant, with 14 days permitted for this task after an election. The Bill extends this period to up to 24 weeks.

During those weeks, Executive ministers will be allowed to stay in their jobs, even if election misfortune has reduced the number of ministries their party should hold.

This non-changing of the guard extends to 48 weeks if the First or Deputy First Minister step down and there is difficulty in replacing her/him.

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Westminster dreads yet another collapse of the institutions. Tired of Stormont’s antics, but desperate for the Executive and Assembly to........

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