Stormont secrecy attacked

September 15, 2000

Almost two-thirds of scrutiny committee meetings of the Northern Ireland Assembly are held behind closed doors.

Liz Fawcett, of the University of Ulster, has warned that the record of openness and accountability for the province's fragile power-sharing experiment is worse than its counterparts in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

She examines the three centres of devolution in terms of their approach towards open government and media relations. She told a seminar hosted by UU that Stormont committees are providing the barest minimum in records of their proceedings.

She was "particularly disturbed" that ministers had appeared before committees held in private.

"It is incredible this has been allowed to happen - the departmental committees were set up to hold their ministers to account - surely they should do so in public," said Dr Fawcett, a former BBC journalist. "Politicians have talked so much about the democratic deficit caused by direct rule. Why are they now conducting so much of their business away from the gaze of the public and media?" Dr Fawcett said that the Scottish Parliament published transcripts of most of its committee meetings and that the Welsh Assembly published comprehensive minutes.

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