Stormont’s watchdog launches new online form to ‘streamline’ complaints against MPs

Stormont’s Standards Commissioner has launched a new online form to help the public file complaints about the conduct of Members of Parliament and Ministers.

The confidential online complaint form is part of a new redesigned website to streamline the process.

Northern Ireland Assembly Standards Commissioner Dr Melissa McCullough said there is a “distinct need to increase public confidence in the Assembly and in politics in general”.

“That is why we must continually promote and ensure the highest standards in public life as a central means of building trust,” she said.

“The new complaint handling software will allow for more streamlined case handling and improved reporting that will ultimately benefit complainants, the Assembly and society as a whole.

At the end of the inquiries, the Commissioner forwards her reports to the Assembly’s Standards Committee, which determines the sanctions likely to be imposed on Members.

In March, legislation came into force that expanded the role of the commissioner to review complaints of alleged breaches of the ministerial code of conduct.

Dr McCullough added: “I recognize that some may not have access to the website to file a complaint online, so I encourage these people to continue to participate in my work and to file a complaint by mail or phone. “

The Office of the Commissioner received 123 complaints between April 2020 and March 2021.

Most concerned “unreasonable and excessive personal attack” and “conduct related to operating in the public interest at all times”.

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Of the 123 complaints, 74 were from members of the public and 49 were from MPs themselves, but 56 were declared inadmissible because they did not meet the criteria.

Details were in Dr McCullough’s first annual report since his appointment in September last year to the post, which had been vacant for three years during the Stormont collapse following the RHI scandal.

A backlog of dozens of complaints filed during the three-year hiatus has since been cleared.

Earlier this year, the commissioner called the volume of complaints lodged against MPs for using offensive language “alarming”.

She said the complaints particularly concerned remarks made by some MPs on social media platforms.

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