Northern Ireland news

Stormont's committees ‘need to be reformed' says Jenny Palmer

Ulster Unionist MLA Jenny Palmer. Picture by Mal McCann

STORMONT'S committee system needs "root and branch" reform, an Ulster Unionist MLA has said in the wake of the Jamie Bryson 'coaching' controversy.

Lagan Valley MLA Jenny Palmer said there needs to be a review of how committees are run following revelations the loyalist blogger was 'coached' by Sinn Féin members before a finance committee hearing into the sale of Nama's northern loans portfolio.

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Ms Palmer, a former DUP councillor, gave evidence to the social development committee in 2015 during its investigation of claims of political interference in the Housing Executive. She later left the DUP amid allegations she was bullied.

The MLA said the scandal had affected voters' confidence in the assembly.

"I know from personal experience that the committee system is far from perfect in how it treats witnesses and how its findings and recommendations can be ignored by Ministers," she said.

She added: "We need to agree a new set of protocols to ensure a clear line is drawn, identifying what is and is not acceptable behaviour by committee chairs and members, with defined sanctions for those who overstep the mark".

"These sanctions must have a real impact where those who are found to be in breach face actual consequences as a result of their actions."

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