Northern Ireland

SPAD bill: SDLP will try to block new special advisers legislation at Stormont

Dominic Bradley
Image caption Dominic Bradley said the SDLP could not support the bill as it stood and wanted it to be amended

The SDLP is to try to block a bill that prevents former prisoners guilty of serious offences from holding posts as Stormont special advisers (SPADs).

The TUV brought the bill after ex-prisoner Mary McArdle was appointed as an advisor to a Sinn Fein minister.

The SDLP's Dominic Bradley has said his party may use a petition of concern to stop the bill from becoming law.

The petition of concern requires 30 or more signatures and triggers a cross-community vote in the assembly.

The SDLP MLA for Newry and Mourne made the comments on the BBC's Stormont Today programme, after the bill passes its latest consideration stage in the assembly on Monday evening.

Mr Bradley said his party had tabled a number of amendments to the bill, including provisions for an appeal mechanism, but all their proposed amendments have been rejected.

"I don't think that we can be persuaded to live with the legislation," the SDLP MLA told the programme.

"We've made every attempt that we possibly could to shape this into good law, that hasn't been successful and I think at this stage we are considering supporting a petition of concern."

The bill was introduced by TUV leader Jim Allister, in response to Mary McArdle's appointment as special adviser to Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.

Ms McArdle had been convicted for her part in the IRA murder of judge's daughter Mary Travers in 1984.

The victim's sister, Ann, protested publicly about the appointment.

Ms McArdle subsequently took up a different post in Sinn Fein.

The bill seeks to ban anyone who has been sentenced to more than five years in prison from taking up a post in the future.

Sinn Fein, which has 29 MLAs, is opposed to the bill and if the party joined forces with the SDLP's 14 MLAs, both parties would be able to secure a petition of concern.

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