logo_of_the_northern_ireland_assembly[1]_0By anyone’s standards, the past week and the weekend now drawing to a close has been a very busy one. Together with Andrew and as part of Faith and Pride I have been responsible for nine events within Belfast Pride Festival.

Tomorrow I am heading back to work for the first time since Christmas as my GP has said that I should have a phased return to work from 1 July. Hopefully it won’t be too taxing – though since it there is a motion before the NI Assembly regarding the Social Development Minister,

Private Members’ Business

Call for an Inquiry into Allegations of Wrongful Political Interference in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Potential Breaches of the Ministerial Code and Misleading of the Assembly and the Committee for Social Development


That this Assembly expresses concern at the contents of the major investigation by the BBC Spotlight programme broadcast on Wednesday 3 July 2013; notes the allegations of serious and wrongful political interference in the Housing Executive and that the Assembly and the Committee for Social Development were purposely misled by the Minister for Social Development over his decision to seek a review of the specification for the supply and fitting of double glazing; and calls for a full inquiry into the relevant Minister to establish any impropriety or irregularity as well as any breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

Mr R Swann Ms C Ruane Mr S Dickson Mrs K McKevitt

(thanks to Ross Hussey MLA for posting the contents of the draft order paper on Facebook)

it could be quite an interesting day to return to work. Of course, we have been told that the Democratic Unionist Party (Democratic in the name should be a warning) have put down a Petition of Concern about this. According to the Assembly’s standing orders:

(1) A Petition of Concern in respect of any matter shall be in the form of a notice signed by at least 30 members presented to the Speaker. No vote may be held on a matter which is the subject of a Petition of Concern until at least one day after the Petition of Concern has been presented.

(2) Other than in exceptional circumstances, a Petition of Concern shall be submitted at least one hour before the vote is due to occur. Where no notice of the vote was signalled or such other conditions apply that delay the presentation of a Petition of Concern the Speaker shall determine whether the Petition is time-barred or not.

Now this seems innocuous, it seems as if it is simply delaying the vote – but that is not the case at all. Petitions of Concern are defined in section 42 (1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (c. 47):

If 30 members petition the Assembly expressing their concern about a matter which is to be voted on by the Assembly, the vote on that matter shall require cross-community support. (legislation.gov.uk)

So basically, now the motion whilst it will be debated is unlikely to pass as it will need both a majority of MLAs voting for it, but also a majority of both those designated Unionist and those designated Nationalist to vote in favour.

All looks set to be an interesting day to be back in work. Wish me luck!