NI: Call to legislate for independent investigations into alleged ministerial misconduct

Steven Agnew
Steven Agnew

The Green Party in Northern Ireland has called for legislation to create an independent process for investigating breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

The party said the Northern Ireland Assembly’s commissioner for standards can investigate alleged breaches of the Assembly Code of Conduct by backbench MLAs, but no comparable process exists for Executive Ministers.

Green Party leaders Steven Agnew and Clare Bailey said they would put forward an Assembly motion calling for the powers of the commissioner for standards to be extended.

Mr Agnew said: “The current lack of independent scrutiny of Executive Ministers is plainly unacceptable.

“There is a crisis of confidence in the political institutions and the RHI fiasco has brought Ministerial conduct into sharp focus.

“People would quite reasonably expect that Ministers should be held to account by an independent investigator, should any allegation arise. They would also expect to be able to raise concerns about Ministerial conduct themselves as engaged citizens. However, there is currently no process by which to do this.

“This is about promoting effective and accountable government in Northern Ireland.”

He added: “I proposed this measure as an amendment to an Assembly motion back in October 2016. This amendment received support from all non-Executive parties.

“This is an issue that arose on a number of occasions at the Standards and Privileges Committee when I was a member in the last mandate.

“We start the new year with confidence in politicians and political institutions at a serious low as a result of the RHI scandal. Each and every elected representative should recognise the need for action and the promotion of transparency and accountability.

“Accordingly, I expect cross-party support this time around and immediate action from the Executive Office.”

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