Assess the view that since 2007 the Northern Ireland Assembly has been a legislative success

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Assess the view that since 2007 the Assembly has been a legislative success

Many would argue that since 2007 the Northern Ireland Assembly has been a legislative success. The Assembly has the power to make laws for Northern Ireland. There are 108 MLAs, during the 4th Assembly there this included 38 DUP MLAs and 29 Sinn Fein MLAs. A proposal for legislation is referred to as a “Bill” until it is passed by the Assembly and given Royal Assent. At this stage it becomes an Act of the Assembly. Initially the assembly could only deal with non-controversial bills, but since the St Andrew’s agreement MLAs have been able to tackle issues with a greater impact on society, such as policing, which was devolved in 2010. In examining the reasons why this has been a success, a good place to start is the benefit of local laws.

The assembly gives us local laws for local issues. It is much more popular and effective producing devolved laws than it is producing them under Direct Rule. Direct Rule ministers could make any decisions they liked regarding Northern Ireland; this is not so under devolution. An example of this is the Sunbed Bill, introduced by DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots on 2010/11. This law was pushed through on the back of a major health issue namely the increase in skin cancer particularly in the north west. It aimed to give Northern Ireland its own regulation of sunbeds. This included controlling their use, including an age limit and ban of under 18s. The Health Committee, then chaired by Jim Wells DUP, received 30 written submissions and took oral evidence from 5 key stakeholders. The evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill.

Another reason that the assembly has been a legislative success is that it has passed legislation based on cross-community support.  There have been good examples of where legislation has the support of both communities in Northern Ireland. For example, the Taxi Bill that was introduced in 2007/08 by Arlene Foster DUP, who was the Minister for Environment.  It regulated the taxi industry. Taxis for example must be registered and licensed. It is worth noting that in producing this legislation the Environment Committee, chaired by Patsy McGlone SDLP, produced over 70 changes to the initial bill after consulting the various interested parties, a good example of legislative scrutiny. Assembly Statutory Committees in particular have displayed a growing maturity as MLAs have become more experienced in assessing the merits of Executive legislative proposals and in putting forward viable alternatives.

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A further example of the Assembly passing effective legislation is the plastic bag levy by Environment Minister Mark Durkan SDLP. This piece of legislation borrowed on legislation in Wales and the Republic of Ireland. It is introduced to try and reduce the levels of waste in N. Ireland where an estimated 250 million carrier bags were used every year. It is the holy grail of legislation in ways as it can willingly tax the public but with the premise that it benefits the environment.

Further support for the proposition can be found when we consider the wide range of ...

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