11 April 2006

SF attacks DUP over peerages


11/04/2006 - 11:49:09

The Democratic Unionist Party was today accused of being more fixated on securing peerages than tackling real issues affecting their Assembly constituents.

On the day when three DUP members including Ian Paisley’s wife Eileen became the party’s first working life peers, Sinn Féin general secretary Mitchel McLaughlin said it was absurd the party had spent its time in the lead position within unionism lobbying the British government for seats in the House of Lords.

The Foyle Assembly member said: “It says much about the attitude of the DUP that they have spent their time lobbying for what will be seen as privileges for their own members rather than working with the rest of the parties in re-establishing the political institutions to tackle issues of real concern to communities such as water charges or health and education cuts.

“It is my belief that many within unionism will be at a loss to see how the DUP demands for seats in the British House of Lords will impact positively on their lives.

“Yet if the DUP finally move to accept power sharing institutions in line with the Good Friday Agreement they will have the opportunity to exercise real power and make real decisions, which will make a real difference to people’s lives.

“That remains our focus in the time ahead. We will not allow ourselves to become distracted from the real business at hand. That is delivering the Agreement and the institutions which people voted for eight years ago.”

The British government confirmed today that Eileen Paisley, DUP chairman Maurice Morrow and Belfast Lord Mayor Wallace Browne would be the first members of the party to take seats in the House of Lords.

Since emerging as the North’s largest party in the 2003 Assembly elections, the DUP has argued for peerages, claiming it was unfair the Ulster Unionists had, prior to today’s appointments, eight representatives in the House of Lords while the larger unionist party had none.

The UUP’s tally increased to nine today with former party leader David Trimble also made a working life peer.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson welcomed the honour bestowed on his three colleagues, saying Paisley, Browne and Morrow richly deserved their new titles.

However he insisted more needed to be done by the British government to address the under-representation of the DUP in the upper chamber.

“The House of Lords plays a vital role in the legislative process of the United Kingdom,” the East Belfast MP said.

“Its membership continues to play a valuable function in scrutinising and amending government bills introduced in the House of Commons and itself is now more heavily involved than ever in introducing legislation from the Lords into the Commons.

“This announcement finally recognises the mandate of the Democratic Unionist Party.

“For years the party was consistently overlooked on the issue of membership of the House of Lords while other parties, many of whom had smaller mandates, had more members in their ranks from the Upper House than elected representatives.

“The decision to elevate Eileen, Maurice, and Wallace is but a first step in redressing the balance of DUP under-representation in the Lords.”

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