Double jobbing amendment withdrawn

Boris Johnson visits Fermanagh

PM Boris Johnson

Jonathan McNabb

Reporter:

Jonathan McNabb

The Prime Minister has confirmed that controversial plans that would have reintroduced dual mandates for Northern Ireland politicians is to be withdrawn.

The move would have allowed MPs to be elected as MLAs and hold both jobs until the next election.

However, when responding to a question from Simon Hoare, the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Boris Johnson said the government would be withdrawing an amendment in the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon.

The plan was met by criticism by the majority of parties at Stormont, who argued that the move would simply benefit the DUP, and in particular, leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who would have been able to stand for election to the assembly in May, while retaining his seat at Westminster.

Earlier this week, six parties at Stormont wrote a letter to Mr Johnson in retaliation to the plan and was signed by Alliance leader Naomi Long, Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey, UUP leader Doug Beattie, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

They wrote: “As leaders of a wide spectrum of Northern Ireland political parties, we are writing to stress our firm opposition to your Government’s amendment in the House of Lords on the reintroduction of dual mandates/double-jobbing, including on a time-limited basis.

“The roles of MP and MLA are full time roles, and it is not possible for someone to simultaneously do full justice to both. There has been a broad consensus across the political spectrum for several years against this practice, and we had regarded this matter as settled and closed with the legal prohibition in the NI (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.

“There has been no consultation with the Northern Ireland parties regarding this measure and it has been brought forward just months away from an Assembly election, which cannot be seen as impartial benefitting as it does only one party.

“It has also departed from the stated position of the Northern Ireland Office that such amendments would only be considered where ‘sufficient consensus’ exists: in fact, all parties with the exception of the DUP are firmly opposed to any return to double jobbing.

“Furthermore, we have significant concerns that the implications of this amendment could fuel political instability, in direct contradiction of the stated purpose of the Bill.

“We strongly urge your Government to withdraw this amendment.”

In a social media post, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the prime minister's announcement as a "big defeat for the DUP".

The Foyle MP said it was a "victory for all of us who opposed it".

Meanwhile, Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry tweeted: "I welcome uturn from Government on the dual mandate amendment. It should not have ever been tabled. Pressure from parties across the spectrum in NI, and Labour and Liberal Democrats in Parliament have had a major impact."

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