End of Mandate - Part 1

02 August 2021 - by Roisin Burns

Clock ticks on NDNA commitments as end of mandate looms

In July we marked 18 months since the signing of the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) agreement. The ambitious deal included timelines on big issues such as the environment, language and culture, health, and legacy issues. But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant significant slippage of the timeframes set out in January 2020. Question marks remain around elements of the deal in terms of resources and funding, and as demonstrated recently with Irish language, certain commitments will be subject to ongoing political negotiations and trade-offs.

With ever increasing pressures, we’ll continue to see a concentrated effort to push through legislation as the mandate comes to a close. In particular, a final effort before the summer recess means there are currently 20 Executive and non-Executive Bills at various stages of Northern Ireland’s legislative agenda, ranging from climate change to organ donation, licencing reform, integrated education and health and social care reform.

With elections scheduled “on or before 5 May 2022”, it will be tight for both the Executive and MLAs with Private Members Bills to get legislation over the line within this mandate.

And there are some clashes to be expected. Clare Bailey’s Private Members Bill, introduced in March 2021, was Northern Ireland’s first ever climate change bill and calls for net-zero carbon emissions in Northern Ireland by 2045. Meanwhile, the Department’s own climate change bill, which completed its first stage just before the summer recess, aims for an at least 82% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland by 2050, considered a less ambitious target. In an unprecedented situation the outcome is unclear if both bills continue to progress, but it does seem that NI is set for climate change reform in some capacity as COP26 looms.

Another late contender is the Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, long campaigned for by many groups and charities, it completed its first stage in the Assembly’s last week before recess.

With many competing priorities, what’s certain is that the Assembly is in for a busy time for the remainder of the mandate, however long that may be.