30/04/2008

Stormont Security Scrutiny Slammed

Airport-style screening has left visitors fuming as the tough new security arrangements are now putting off tourists visiting the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Disaffected visitors are left facing a padlocked gate and no entry sign. Restrictions have also barred the route up the main steps at the front of the imposing Parliament Buildings.

This month's changes, with visitors filed through a checkpoint, followed the raid on Stormont in November 2006 by former UDA gunman Michael Stone.

Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has expressed his concerns over this matter of security.

He said: "I am deeply concerned that the implementation of the recent security review has meant that there is a more negative message being sent out about access to Stormont at a time when there should be a greater commitment to opening up the corridors of the Assembly to the general public and the media.

"Having been at the Assembly for some time I believe that we are now moving in the wrong direction.

"I am also concerned at the costs associated with the new arrangements and with bottlenecks at the new single security point."

However, a spokesperson for the Assembly said: "The Assembly Commission gave detailed consideration to the potential impact on members of the public visiting the Assembly, and has sought to balance ease of access with the need to create a safe space for everyone working in and visiting Parliament Buildings.

"The Commission has identified increased engagement between the Assembly and the public as a priority, and is developing strategies to achieve that."

(BMcC)

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