Nesbitt: 'More normalised form of democracy needed'

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The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party called for a more "normalised form of democracy" in Northern Ireland, on 4 March 2013.

Mike Nesbitt brought forward a motion to debate aspects of the Draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

The Westminster bill seeks to improve the operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The UUP motion called for further work to be done on aspects which could be included in the bill.

Mr Nesbitt said these aspects included reviewing the size of the Assembly and the duration of its term.

The Strangford MLA said the bill offered a "true opportunity to take bold steps towards the normalisation of politics in this house".

"I do believe the time is right to review how far we have come in the last 15 years and how far we have still to go," he said.

He went on to say the bill lacked ambition and he wanted Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to support an official opposition in the Assembly.

He also called on all political parties to play a full role at Westminster or to forfeit the expenses they claim from Parliament.

"Take your seats or give up your expenses," Mr Nesbitt said.

Sinn Fein has four MPs but has a long-standing abstentionist policy.

Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan said his party was not supportive of the motion and said Mr Nesbitt's contribution had focused on criticism of Sinn Fein.

He said the party's MPs still represented constituents and there was no reason for the expenses to be withdrawn.

His party colleague, Caitriona Ruane explained why her party chose not to take their seats at Westminster.

"We don't agree with British interference in Ireland, we believe there should be a united Ireland and we are actively working towards that," she said.

The Alliance Party's Stewart Dickson proposed an amendment calling for donations to political parties in Northern Ireland to be handled in the same way as in Great Britain.

He said it was important that all parties were open and transparent in how they were funded.

Peter Weir of the DUP, said his party would not support this Alliance amendment.

He described it as "idealised" as people in Northern Ireland had been subject to threats, intimidation and extortion.

"What confidence would we have within this society for a full level of disclosure, in terms of political donations?" he asked.

"It would create the perception of a very real fear amongst a lot of people that they could possibly be targeted by extremists," he said.

SDLP's Conall McDevitt said the motion was designed to prejudice and undermine the work of the Assembly Executive Review committee.

The second part of the debate can be viewed here.

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