Double Jobs and Soldiers
A late night for our MLAs. The debate on Dawn Purvis's bill banning MLAs serving as councillors was as rumbustious as could have been predicted. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists backed Ms Purvis's measure. However the DUP and Alliance voiced opposition, preferring political parties to phase ther practice out on their own. The DUP accused others of hypocrisy, particularly concentrating on the SDLP whose 3 MPs have yet to relinquish their Stormont roles (even though this bill dealt with council, not Wesminster double jobbing).
As Dawn Purvis summed up, she talked about Mr Girvan's contribution, only to find the DUP wondering why she was referring to an MLA not present. Ah, it was the old Givan/Girvan chestnut again.
In the end the bill proceeded with one amendment building in a 60 day delay to a ban on a politician serving as a councillor. 60 days, that is, after the politician becomes an MLA.
The independent unionist Alan McFarland expressed concern about the DUP standing its "big guns" in council elections only for those well known figures to stand aside for substitutes. The DUP responded by wondering whether Mr McFarland would himself stand in North Down under the umbrella of local "big gun" Lady Sylvia Hermon.
The measure now goes to its further consideration stage - for some bills this is a formality but Dawn Purvis will only believe it when her measure gets what's known as "Royal Assent".
As I write at 22.20 the Ulster Unionist David McNarry is summing up his Armed Forces and Veterans Bill. It's a very different measure from Dawn Purvis's bill, but what both items have in common is that they have been drawn up individual MLAs not by the Executive. Although nationalists expressed reservations, the McNarry bill passed its second stage without a formal vote.