The Ulster Unionist Party’s Lagan Valley MLA, Jenny Palmer, has called for a root and branch review of the committee system and how it operates in the wake of last week’s revelation’s involving Daithi McKay and to take account of the fact that we now have an Official Opposition at Stormont.
Jenny Palmer said:
“Many people will have looked on with great concern at the events of last week, and confidence will have been shaken in the devolved institutions.
“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. The presence of an Official Opposition offers us the opportunity to bring about much needed change and help restore public confidence.
“I believe we need a root and branch review of the committee system and how it operates and I fully support from the call from my Party Leader Mike Nesbitt for the Chairpersons Liaison Group to meet urgently to review policy and practice regarding interaction between Committees and witnesses. 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. It is my belief that this is essential if we are to rebuild confidence in our system and the work which we as MLAs are doing.
“It is clear that it will suit some people to close down the original committee inquiry into NAMA, cast doubt on the evidence given to it and seek to discredit the witnesses in the hope that the issue can be put to bed.
“That is not going to happen, because as my colleague Philip Smith MLA said last week, the Assembly inquiry is not the only investigation into NAMA. There are investigations being carried out by both the National Crime Agency in conjunction with the PSNI and the US Department of Justice. I have faith that these investigations will uncover the truth about the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio is known.”