Opposition says there hasn't been 'a single piece of legislation of any substance' in first 100 days of Stormont

Leader of the Opposition Matthew O'Toole (SDLP MLA) speaks to members of the media in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Photo: David Young/PA WireLeader of the Opposition Matthew O'Toole (SDLP MLA) speaks to members of the media in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Photo: David Young/PA Wire
Leader of the Opposition Matthew O'Toole (SDLP MLA) speaks to members of the media in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Photo: David Young/PA Wire
​The Official Opposition say there hasn’t been “a single piece of legislation of any substance” since the Executive returned – and its leader Matthew O’Toole has questioned whether the Executive knows what its purpose is.

The comments came ahead of opposition day at the Assembly on Monday, where the SDLP will put “delivery” on issues such as a programme for government on the agenda.

The party criticised low attendance from the DUP and Sinn Fein the last time the opposition had control of the Assembly agenda.

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Mr O’Toole, the SDLP’s Stormont leader, said: “100 days into this new administration and people are right to probe Ministers’ priorities.

“Because despite months of engagement with senior civil servants and now months of direct power, the Executive doesn’t really seem to know what its purpose is - and that’s bad news for people relying on public services that desperately need to be rescued.

​A programme for government will be central to the opposition day at Stormont tomorrow – with an opposition MLA saying that it is key to delivering an agenda for departments to follow. It comes as 100 days have passed since the Executive was restored.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said that the only legislation delivered in the first 100 days was “to overturn a piece of legislation that they had passed in the last Assembly”.

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He accused the Executive of “trailing its heals”, adding: “It’s not doing its job. Our job as an opposition is to expose that and to ask for that delivery because that’s what people need to see”.

Mr McGrath said the opposition had been prepared to allow the Executive time to bed in – but what has happened so far “isn’t cutting it”, he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.

“We’ve seen plenty of the photo ops but we’re not seeing much of the substance. And if we look at there was an absolute urgent need to have the Executive back – it was because we had issues to do with public sector pay. We need to see issues addressed for affordable childcare. We need to see hospital waiting lists reduced.

“And here we are after 100 days and we don’t have a shred of evidence that any of those issues are going to be adequately dealt with”.

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The South Down MLA said that various sectors were telling his party that the executive isn’t delivering for them – and that concern would be “amplified” through the opposition day events.

“We have had debates on dealing with poverty. We were calling for that programme for government. We want to see an environmental protection agency with can deal with issues in Lough Neagh.

“We’re trying to amplify those issues, to put them on to the agenda of this executive because currently it’s failing to prioritise them”.

He said the opposition would “critically assess” any budget – but said that ministers need to set priorities so that they can be held to account for how they are delivering them.

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“Collectively, on the health committee… we have been asking the health minister to give us his priorities.

“Where is he spending the money so that we can determine is it being spent in the right place. We still haven’t got that sort of information.

“So we do need to see more transparency in terms of the budget to see where the priorities are. But that fits in with a programme for government – that fits in with a legislative programme – and we’re not seeing any of that”.

The SDLP will also propose that the Assembly “declares an ecological and biodiversity crisis” over Lough Neagh.

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Similar motions have been passed by legislatures and councils across the UK declaring a “climate emergency” – including Stormont. Such motions have no legal weight.

The party will also propose a motion calling for the devolution of certain VAT powers to Northern Ireland – and ask the finance and economy ministers to “bring forward a package of costed interventions” to support the hospitality sector.

At the weekend TUV leader Jim Allister – who is not part of the official opposition – used the 100 day landmark to attack the DUP and Ulster Unionist Party over their “implementation” of the Irish Sea border.

He said: “The only bright spot for unionism in the last 100 days is the pan-unionist alignment between Reform UK and TUV” which was “cementing relations across the United Kingdom”.

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