Foster pledges to ‘get Northern Ireland moving’ as Assembly sits again Sat, Jan 11, 2020

Three years after its collapse the Northern Assembly was formally back in business at lunchtime on Saturday following Thursday night’s publication of the British-Irish agreement to restore Stormont.

And as the wheels of the powersharing administration slowly cranked back into gear after 36 months of paralysis the incoming DUP First Minister Arlene Foster pledged to “get Northern Ireland moving forward again”.

“We won’t solve every problem immediately but local Ministers will get on with key reforms in schools and hospitals,” she promised.

The session of the Assembly began at 1 pm with the election of a speaker and deputy speakers, with DUP East Derry DUP Assembly member, George Robinsons initially chairing proceedings.

Before moving to those elections he went though the list of members who had resigned or been replaced since the last full meeting of the Assembly three years ago.

There were three nominations for the position of speaker, Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin a West Belfast MLA; East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs of the Ulster Unionist Party; and Mid-Ulster SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone.

Peter Weir of the DUP caused some surprise by stating his party was supporting Mr Maskey for the speaker position, appearing to demonstrate that from the outset his party and Sinn Féin were determined to make the restored dispensation work.

Mr Weir said the MLAs were embarking on a “long journey, a never-ending journey to make life better for all of us”, while adding, “It is a challenge to all of us to work together.”

To no surprise the first discordant note of the day came from Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister who referring to the title of the deal, New Decade, New Approach, said it was the same “old carve up between DUP and Sinn Féin”.

“Nothing has changed, nothing is new and nothing good will come of it,” he said, while adding that the sight of DUP MLAs trooping through the lobby to “support a Sinn Féin speaker will not be lost on many”.

Mr Allister would have preferred to see Mr Beggs or Mr McGlone as speaker because “neither of them has baggage that would prevent them from doing the job”. It was “the same old, same old”, he complained.

Nonetheless, the vote was held and Mr Maskey was duly elected, and normal business could begin with the Sinn Féin MLA in the speaker’s chair.

Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin leads her party into the chamber in Stormont. Photograph: Michael Cooper/PA

Sinn Féin applauded his election in the chamber but the DUP members did not, although DUP members voted for him.

Mr Maskey offered a big “hardy thank you” to those who voted for him, and said it was significant he was elected by a cross-community vote. He hoped the Assembly could continue its work in a “spirit of generosity” and “reconciliation”.

Business then continued through the afternoon with the next due order of business electing deputy speakers.

Those elected to the deputy speaker posts were Christopher Stalford of the DUP, Roy Beggs of the UUP and Patsy McGlone of the SDLP.

The next work was the election of a business committee followed by the election of DUP leader Arlene Foster as First Minister and Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill as Deputy First Minister, and then a new Executive.

That work was expected to take until about 4.30 pm.

Northern Secretary Julian Smith and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney whose publication of their New Decade, New Approach agreement late on Thursday prompted the parties to re-enter Stormont were not present but wished the parties well.

Mr Smith had warned that if there was no agreement by 11.59 pm on this coming Monday he would call Assembly elections – a challenge most parties, particularly the DUP and Sinn Féin, did not want to face.

“What a week,” wrote Mr Coveney in a tweet. “The ingredients of pace, leadership and a fixed deadline have given the politics of this place another chance,” he added.

In a tweet to the leaders of the five main parties Mr Smith wrote, “Well done good luck!”

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar said: “This is a historic day for Northern Ireland.”

“All parties and politicians in Northern Ireland are to be commended for their decision to put the people they represent first and make measured compromises to reach a deal. I want to thank the Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Secretary of State Julian Smith, and their teams, for the enormous effort and hard work over the last number of months in drafting New Decade, New Approach.”

He added: “I look forward to working with representatives in Northern Ireland as they begin working together again on behalf of all people in Northern Ireland. I am also looking forward to an early meeting of the North South Ministerial Council as part of working with the Northern Ireland executive, in the interest of everyone on this island.”

UK prime minister Boris Johnson described the day as momentous, and said in a statement: “As we begin a new decade, we can now look forward to a brighter future for all in Northern Ireland, with an Executive that can transform public services and improve people’s lives.

“The parties of Northern Ireland have shown great leadership in coming together to accept this fair and balanced deal in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland.

“After three years without devolved Government, an Executive can now get on with the job of delivering much-needed reforms to the health service, education and justice.

“We could not have got this far without the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith who has dedicated himself to this process and has worked closely with the Northern Ireland parties and Irish Government to make this happen.”

Under the new deal, the new Executive and Assembly will deal with a wide range of matters such as the Irish language, the sustainability of a reformed Assembly and the petition of concern.

The British and Irish governments also promised a major injection of financial support to address matters such as the health crisis, education, housing, infrastructure and building the Northern Ireland economy


Parliamentary reports show first speaker only - follow this lnk for the full transcription.
Articles may come from parliamentary reports, various public news feeds and Google News Search. Content is republished here for context. Copyright is respected and remains with the original author at all times. Original Article:https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/foster-pledges-to-get-northern-ireland-moving-as-assembly-sits-again-1.4137241

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Stormont defends ‘routine use’ of temporary promotions to plug staffing gaps at DfI

Concerns have been raised over staffing issues at a Stormont department after it emerged that hundreds of employees have been temporarily promoted over the last five years.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has 2,791 staff and, as of February 2020, 136 were temporarily promoted.

By February this year, this had increased to 159. Of this figure, 69 promotions were in place for less than six months, 25 for six to 12 months and 65 for 12 months and over.

Over the past five years, a total of 793 temporary promotions occurred within the department.

Alliance infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir said DfI has been struggling with staffing shortages “for years”.

“The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, is currently considering a report into the capacity and capability of the civil service,” he said.

“The issues identified by that report clearly apply to the Department for Infrastructure, especially the need for overall and Departmental Workforce Plans to ensure public services properly delivered by properly and permanently staffed departments.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs

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Stormont defends ‘routine use’ of temporary promotions to plug staffing gaps at DfI

Concerns have been raised over staffing issues at a Stormont department after it emerged that hundreds of employees have been temporarily promoted over the last five years.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has 2,791 staff and, as of February 2020, 136 were temporarily promoted.

By February this year, this had increased to 159. Of this figure, 69 promotions were in place for less than six months, 25 for six to 12 months and 65 for 12 months and over.

Over the past five years, a total of 793 temporary promotions occurred within the department.

Alliance infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir said DfI has been struggling with staffing shortages “for years”.

“The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, is currently considering a report into the capacity and capability of the civil service,” he said.

“The issues identified by that report clearly apply to the Department for Infrastructure, especially the need for overall and Departmental Workforce Plans to ensure public services properly delivered by properly and permanently staffed departments.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs

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16% of Civil Service staff self-isolated during the pandemic

Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph show that there were 3,603 cases of staff absences due to self-isolation from February 2020 to March 2021.


Coronavirus Data Graphs

Stormont’s largest department, the Department for Communities (DfC), saw 1,609 occurrences where a staff member was absent due to self-isolation out of its 6,951 employees. This represents around 23% of DfC’s workforce.

The highest proportion of absences was in the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) at almost 30%. DfI employs 2,973 workers and registered 884 occurrences of absences due to Covid.

Questions: Roy Beggs said there will have been a variety of reasons for the leave
Questions: Roy Beggs said there will have been a variety of reasons for the leave

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David Burnside: Those of us who really knew Molyneaux will not let his reputation be besmirched

He was constantly bombarding unionist MPs like Jim Molyneaux, Martin Smyth, Roy Beggs, Willie Ross and me with letters, opinions and newsletters.


Parliamentary reports show first speaker only - follow this lnk for the full transcription.
Articles may come from parliamentary reports, various public news feeds and Google News Search. Content is republished here for context. Copyright is respected and remains with the original author at all times. Original Article:https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/david-burnside-those-us-who-really-knew-molyneaux-will-not-let-his-reputation-be-besmirched-1258588

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