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Failure to respond 'intolerable'

Suzanne McGonagles.mcgonagle@irishnews.com

150 questions from MLAs have not been answered by the first and deputy first ministers a year after they were submitted. We asked them why. They haven't replied...

More than 150 questions to Peter robinson and Martin McGuinness posed by assembly members remain unanswered almost a year after they were submitted.

The failure of Northern Ireland's key government department to respond to written questions has been described as "intolerable."

Under Stormont rules, non-priority questions should be answered within 10 working days and priority questions are supposed to be answered within five.

However, assembly members are often waiting several months for answers from the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

SDLP assembly member Patsy McGlone said he was among a growing number of irate politicians awaiting answers. He has posed questions ranging from the cost of business trips, to corporation tax and the A5 road.

"This proves the sort of inefficiency which flows from the OFMDFM - they can't make decisions, such as The Maze project, or can't even respond to assembly questions from members," he said.

"My questions sought details of the costs of their over-seas trips - what have they to hide? I think at a time when constituents demand to be given an efficient and transparent service, obviously OFMDFM is neither."

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said "ironically" he had submitted a question to OFMDFM in March this year addressing the issue of late answers and had only received an answer yesterday - seven months later.

"This is not a model for good, accountable governance and it means on many key issues progress is slowed or even stalled by lack of legislative progress," he said.

The OFMDFM has not responded to Irish News queries about the delay in answering questions, first submitted more than a month ago.

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