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Social Development Minister was Accused of Overstepping His AuthorityDec 24, 2011

The social development minister was accused of overstepping his authority by the SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell. In the assembly, Mr McDonnell asked the speaker what he could do to address Nelson McCausland's attitude to what he called recent events in north Belfast around parading.

The speaker said the issue was outside his authority. Dr McDonnell said the SDLP will be proposing a motion of censure. He said they were taking the action over what the SDLP regard as Mr McCaulsand's failure to condemn breaches of lawful determinations relating to recent parades.

"The minister failed to condemn the sectarian actions of the Young Conway Volunteers outside St Patrick's Church on the Twelfth," said Mr McDonnell.

"He has since hidden behind a deeply disingenuous line on civil disobedience to mask his failure to condemn the illegal actions of lodges and bands who flagrantly breached the Parades Commission determinations on August 25.

"The minister is quick to publicly judge on breaches by the nationalist community - it is time he exercised balance in his work.

"In his failure to uphold law and order and promote good community relations, we believe he has breached points 1.4 and 1.5 of the Ministerial Pledge of Office.

"The speaker has informed the assembly that he has no authority to rule on such breaches - it is a matter for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) - but we believe the minister's behaviour to have caused such serious damage to the reputation of this assembly that the SDLP will be bringing a motion of no confidence before the house.

"If our community is to move forward, it must do so in a spirit of partnership and reconciliation and the least we can expect is for those at the heart of government to uphold that spirit - Mr McCausland has manifestly failed to do so and something must be done."