Northern Ireland

Speaker Alex Maskey issues warning over Stormont assembly's legislative logjam

Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey. Picture by Michael Cooper/PA Wire
Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey. Picture by Michael Cooper/PA Wire

LEGISLATIVE logjam at Stormont may scupper efforts to introduce a raft of new laws by March next year.

Assembly speaker Alex Maskey has written to MLAs saying time pressures could prevent a number of pieces of legislation being passed before the current mandate expires.

He said at least 30 bills, including many introduced by MLAs, have yet to progress through the required legislative stages.

The speaker blamed the coronavirus pandemic and Stormont's three years of dormancy, which only ended in January last year.

He said the final number of outstanding executive and private member's bills has yet to be confirmed.

"This will create severe pressure on assembly and committee time," he said.

"It therefore appears highly unlikely that all of the bills which are currently in front of the assembly, or might be submitted, will be able to complete their passage by the end of the mandate."

Bills introduced by executive ministers include legislation on climate change and a soft opt-out for organ donations.

The speaker warned against further bills being introduced in the weeks ahead and said the availability of time would be "the biggest resource constraint in the months ahead".

SDLP assembly chief whip Dolores Kelly blamed the logjam on Stormont's two biggest parties.

“While I know MLAs will consider late and extra sitting days in an attempt to get as much legislation as possible over the line, the fact remains – they shouldn’t have to - and this will also result in additional pressures on assembly staff," she said.

"The fault for that lies directly at the feet of Sinn Féin-DUP who remain more interested in fighting amongst themselves than performing the duties of governing."