Northern Ireland news

Stormont revises Covid guidance that made masks compulsory for staff but not for MLAs

The authorities at Parliament Buildings have revised face coverings guidance for MLAs. Picture by Peter Morrison/PA Wire

THE AUTHORITIES at the Stormont assembly have revised guidance on face coverings after what one assembly member described as a "two tier" system made masks compulsory for staff but not for MLAs.

On Wednesday, the Assembly Commission sent correspondence to staff in Parliament Buildings that said "all building users who are not members [MLAs] must wear face coverings". However, the guidance for MLAs was less stringent, saying that they "should wear a face covering".

One Stormont assembly worker told The Irish News there was "disquiet" among staff over the distinction.

"While the letter sent out was quite nuanced, it basically said it was compulsory for staff to wear masks but optional for MLAs," the worker said.

The worker said there was no evidence of MLAs disregarding the guidance on face coverings, but People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll said "some MLAs and party members have openly flouted the guidance on several occasions".

The Assembly Commission yesterday issued revised guidance to MLAs, which stressed that they must wear a mask. It is not known whether the policy was revised after complaints.

The move came as the commission also sought to reduce the need for MLAs to attend Parliament Buildings.

Mr Carroll said he had been urging the Assembly Commission to take greater precautions against Covid "for months"

He welcomed the revised guidance for MLAs.

"It wasn't right that staff in the assembly building were told they must wear a mask but MLAs only should," the West Belfast MLA said.

"We cannot have a two tiered system in which it's one rule for assembly staff and another for MLAs – the rule should apply equally across the board."

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Northern Ireland news