SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has strongly criticised the DUP for being the most ‘veto-holic’ of all the parties in relation to the abuse of the petition of concern.
Mr Durkan has now called for a return to what the veto was originally provided for in the Good Friday Agreement, as an additional proofing mechanism for rights and equality.
He said that this should be applied in areas such as equal marriage.
Speaking during last night’s House of Commons debate on the Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointments and Regional Rates) Bill, Mr Durkan said: “During this debate I have been struck by the number of times Sammy Wilson has condemned Sinn Féin for using a veto – that from the DUP, the most veto-holic of all the parties, not least in relation to the abuse of the petition of concern.
“The biggest abuse of the petition of concern comes whenever it is used to prevent motions in the Assembly – even non-binding motions and valid and credible motions of censure – from having any standing whatsoever.
“If people are going to use the Petition of Concern in relation to motions of censure in one way, they should recognise that others are going to say,
“If you are going to veto things in one way, you are creating the rules, and you are going to have to live by them.”
Mr Durkan said there needed to be a return to what was originally provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.
“The petition of concern was not included in the agreement as a veto; it was provided as a trigger mechanism for an additional form of proofing by a special committee in relation to concerns about rights or equality – that is all it was provided for,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the legislation did not properly reflect that, and it left things up to the Standing Orders in the Assembly, but those Standing Orders have never been right.
“Sinn Féin and the DUP have always been happy to leave the petition of concern as a dead-end veto under the Standing Orders of the Assembly. That was never in the agreement.”
Mr Durkan added: “I make no apology for my part in negotiating and drafting the Good Friday Agreement and in helping to establish the institutions. I regret the fact that we have departed from the Good Friday Agreement in so many ways.
“Let us return to the Petition of Concern as an additional proofing mechanism for rights and equality – not as a prevention mechanism against the advancement of rights and equality in areas such as equal marriage.”