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200 Assembly questions to go unanswered after resignations

Almost 200 written questions to Stormont ministers will not be answered, the Assembly has confirmed Picture by Matt Bohill/Pacemaker
John Monaghan

ALMOST 200 questions submitted to four unionist ministers who have resigned their positions will not be answered until a new minister is appointed, the Assembly has confirmed.

In the eight working days from September 1 until the resignation of three DUP ministers on Thursday, a total of 194 written questions, which remain unanswered, were tabled by MLAs.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy, of the UUP, was the first to leave his post last week, and was followed on Thursday by the DUP ministers for health, social development and enterprise, trade and investment.

Each minister left their desk with a substantial in-tray of written enquiries made on behalf of the north’s constituents, which will now go unanswered.

Twelve questions were submitted to Mr Kennedy prior to his resignation, with all but one now withdrawn.

The vast bulk of the written questions, 114 in total, were tabled to the former Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, from MLAs seeking updates on major impending issues including the progress of an air ambulance for the north, budget restrictions, fire station proposals, and the numbers of cancelled operations.

Fourteen questions to Jonathan Bell, the former DETI Minister, have been earmarked to be answered on September 21, a calculation perhaps made in the midst of the DUP’s failed push for an adjournment of the Assembly.

None of the queries will now receive a response until a new minister takes charge.

An Assembly spokeswoman said: "In the absence of a minister, written questions will not be accepted and questions listed for oral answer will fall. Written questions submitted prior to a minister’s resignation coming into effect will be answered immediately following the vacancy being filled."

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