“Already, two Sinn Fein special advisers have been submitted to vetting procedures put in place by Sammy Wilson, the finance minister, as a condition for paying them.”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Liam Clarke adds some interesting background detail on Jim Allister’s Bill legislating for the vetting of ministerial special advisers.  As he points out, vetting began following the resignation of Sinn Féin’s Mary McArdle – who had been jailed for her part in the 1984 murder of Mary Travers.  From the Belfast Telegraph article

When Sinn Fein eventually replaced Ms McArdle with Mr Kearney, a journalist, Mr Wilson refused to pay him until he was vetted under special guidelines.

Sinn Fein initially preferred to pay him out of party funds, rather than agree to vetting, which they held was contrary to the Good Friday Agreement.

The fact that they have now moved on the issue must be at least partly due to Mr Allister’s private member’s Bill. It passed the consideration stage after a complex late-night debate on Tuesday. It is somewhat tougher than Mr Wilson’s guidelines, saying that no one can be employed as a Spad on whom “a sentence of imprisonment of five years, or more, was imposed”.

This would have affected people already employed. It would have ruled out Paul Kavanagh, one of Martin McGuinness’s special advisers, who has convictions for bombing London in the 1980s.

However, there must be doubts if the courts would apply legislation which wasn’t in place when he was appointed.

The other difference is that Mr Wilson’s guidelines could be changed by a future finance minister without new legislation. [added emphasis throughout]

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  • sherdy

    If Sammy has the power to veto salary payments to Sinn Fein nominees, then in fairness, who has the power to veto payments to DUP nominees?

  • Pete Baker

    sherdy

    The Northern Ireland Executive’s Minister of Finance and Personnel.

    In both cases.

  • Comrade Stalin

    However, there must be doubts if the courts would apply legislation which wasn’t in place when he was appointed.

    From what I can tell, the new SpAD bill specifically deals with this matter by requiring that SpADs be terminated upon the legislation coming into effect if any of the bill’s provisions WRT criminal convictions apply.

    Section 2(4) :

    (4) Where on the date of coming into operation of this subsection a person –

    (a) holds an appointment as a special adviser, and

    (b) has before that date incurred a serious criminal conviction,
    that person’s appointment terminates immediately by virtue of this Act.

  • Comrade Stalin

    sherdy,

    As Pete says it is not the “Sammy” vetoing payments but the Minister of Finance and Personnel.

    The Minister is subject to judicial oversight; if he fails to apply the standards equally and fairly he is subject to having his decisions overturned by the courts.

  • BluesJazz

    Fair play to Jim Allister.

    Is he the only person actually working at Stormont?

    Noone else appears to be. It makes the House of Lords look like a hive of activity. Though it actually has a purpose.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    In any case, I’d suspect that the new regulations would take effect after any election.

    When, by necessity, a new panel of special advisers would need to be [re]appointed.

  • Morpheus

    I can’t help but think if you are saying “Fair play to Jim Allister” because he did a good job for NI or “Fair play to Jim Allister” because he did something to stick a thorn in the side of the Shinners?

    Personally I think this legislation is a good thing because those in the highest positions of power should be subject to the same police checks that say a care worker should be subject to.

    But playing devil’s advocate for a second – will they not cry foul as this essentially discriminates against those who have paid their debt to society?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Pete,

    No, the legislation takes place immediately upon the bill receiving Royal Assent. Theoretically that could happen within months unless SF are able to place obstacles in the way.

    Article 12 of the bill :

    Commencement
    12. -(1) Sections 2(5), 3, 7, 8, 10, 12 and 13 come into operation on the day on which the Act receives Royal Assent.

    (2) Section 2(6) comes into operation at the end of the period of 1 month after the day on which the Act receives Royal Assent.

    (3) The other provisions of this Act come into operation at the end of the period of 2 months after the day on which the Act receives Royal Assent

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    Apologies,

    Late night, hadn’t read that closely.

  • socaire

    A new law is to be passed by the running dogs of British Imperialism. Anyone wearing the same underwear for more than three weeks will not be allowed into Stormont. This is a British Law and cannot be questioned or broken. God save the Queens. And ………… no ‘Ó’ nor ‘Mac’ shall strut nor swagger in the corridors of Stormont.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Very surprised to hear that SF submitted to Sammys vetting procedure.

    this only happened about 9 months ago, the ‘special’ vetting was IIRC made up by Sammy as one of several solo runs he’d gone on (trying to micro manage every depts budgets being the others) SF refused to submit as the ‘special’ vetting was not legal in any way.

    So even more surprised that they submitted because the TUV Bill was on the way, I would have thought it would have been the SF sting. That once the Bill was passed a SF SpAd would get a large amount of cash as backpay, very much putting the cat among the pigeons.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s going to be fun when SF are the largest party and they get to take over Finance isn’t it ?

  • Alias

    “It’s going to be fun when SF are the largest party and they get to take over Finance isn’t it ?”

    The Shinners wouldn’t pick Finance anyway… too many ‘cuts’ left to implement.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    The other point is, does SF care,

    there are only 19 SpAds in Stormont

    they have people with a ‘past’ in lots of elected and unelected positions.

    Is there anyone left with a ‘past’ to get on the political ladder. The IRA moved to Spectaculars in the 80’s so less vols went to prison. Kavanagh has a ‘past’ and was made a SpAd in 2012, he’s in his 50’s.

    All in all, it’s bolting the stable door…….

    on the flipside, Nelson Mandela would be barred from being a SpAd. Crazy huh!

  • Mick Fealty

    CS,

    It would certainly be revealing. It seems to me that SF banked a card too early for this coming game of poker. If they were playing the limited cards they have to the max, they’d have continued shelling out the industrial wage for him. This a fold, surely?

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “Fair play to Jim Allister.
    Is he the only person actually working at Stormont?”

    a question that will be much more widely asked in unionist circles than nationalist ones.

    So this will cost who votes?

  • tomthumbuk

    Special Advisors are are an expensive joke.
    What in God’s name could a jailbird advise anyone on except the best way to eat porridge?
    The poor old taxpayer has to foot the bill for another pathetic political” in your face” gesture from Sinn Fein.
    Think of the many uses public money could be spent on and we waste it on funding political parties through the back door!
    No wonder people don’t vote.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    What in God’s name could a jailbird advise anyone on except the best way to eat porridge?

    Dunno, lets ask Nelson Mandela

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Speaking of jailbirds,
    I see Francie Malloy is being replaced by one,

    SF are going to have the TUV and DUP slugging this out for a while, where’s me popcorn

  • cynic2

    “in fairness, who has the power to veto payments to DUP nominees?”

    Sammy does. WHo said this was a democracy

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair point. Which further underwrites the desirability to get the thing on an even legislative footing…