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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 13:58 GMT
MLA numbers 'should be cut'
Northern Ireland Assembly
DUP wants a cut in the number of assembly members
The number of assembly members should be cut to 72 from 108, the Democratic Unionist Party has said.

Deputy leader Peter Robinson said the credibility of devolution has been "undermined by excess and waste at Stormont".

Mr Robinson made a similar call in February last year.

Peter Robinson
The devolved institutions set up under the Belfast Agreement failed to deliver democratic, accountable governments and also proved to be a costly experiment for the people of Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson
DUP

Speaking to DUP candidates in the forthcoming assembly elections, the former Regional Development Minister attacked "the bloated bureaucracy" created by the Belfast Agreement.

He called for the number of MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to be cut from six to four in each constituency.

The East Belfast MP also said the number of government departments should be reduced to six or seven from the present 11 which operated under devolution.

Mr Robinson also said there must be a smaller staff in the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers.

In addition, he has called for the Civic Forum to be scrapped.

'Delivery of services'

The membership of the body, which was established under the Good Friday Agreement, comprises trade unionists, academics and representatives of the business, voluntary and community sectors.

Conor Murphy
These institutions were created out of the experience of single party misrule under unionism and the abuse of power

Conor Murphy
Sinn Fein

"The devolved institutions set up under the Belfast Agreement not only failed to deliver democratic, accountable governments but have also proved to be a costly experiment for the people of Northern Ireland," said Mr Robinson.

"Over the last four years too much money has gone into running government in Northern Ireland and not enough into front-line delivery of services.

"The regional rate has increased but too much of this has simply been swallowed up in administration.

"The aim of any negotiations after the Assembly elections must not just be to create democratic institutions but institutions which represent the most efficient form of administration possible."

'Checks and balances'

However, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said Northern Ireland's high number of assembly members and government departments was "a legacy of unionist misrule".

The Newry and Armagh assembly member defended the number of MLAs.

He said the past history of abuses had created the need for stronger "checks and balances".

Alban Maginness
Alban Maginness: "Pre-election stunt"

"These institutions were created out of the experience of single party misrule under unionism and the abuse of power," he said.

"In order for nationalists and others to have their say in how the six counties are run, there needed to be checks and balances and a spread of power.

"It was, therefore, necessary to have a bigger government and assembly than other democracies.

"Had we not had abuses in the past, I think people would have been prepared to go into a more slimline government."

Former Ulster Unionist minister Michael McGimpsey said Mr Robinson was exaggerating the savings which could be made by reducing the number of MLAs.

The SDLP's Alban Maginness described Mr Robinson's comments as "a pre-election stunt" which he said the DUP often indulged in.

"Even if you cut the number of assembly members down to the numbers they have suggested, you would not make those sorts of (financial) savings," he said.

"This is a non too subtle attack by Peter Robinson on the Agreement itself."

See also:

12 Feb 02 | N Ireland
11 Sep 00 | N Ireland
09 Sep 00 | N Ireland
11 Sep 00 | N Ireland
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