The First Minister faced his first questions in the Assembly today and one of the drawbacks of having an 81 year-old leader became clear. He did have a prepared answer for the expected reference to Ian Paisley Jnr’s widely covered comments.. except that, when he produced that answer, it was to a different question entirely.. as this Press Association report points out.From the report
“The office of First Minister and the Deputy First Minister is totally committed to promoting equality of human rights and the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are completely opposed to any form of discrimination or harassment against any citizens – and so are all in their office,” said Mr Paisley.
The Social, Democratic and Labour Party`s (SDLP) Thomas Burns (South Antrim) had actually asked the First Minister whether he agreed with his son`s comments in the last Assembly that the real reason for appointing junior ministers was so they could “stick their noses into any business the First Minister and Deputy First Minister decide”, and to prevent proper scrutiny of the OFMDFM`s actions.
When he tried to put the question again, the First Minister – with his son sitting beside him on the front bench in the Stormont Chamber – referred back to his original answer.
Eventually the question Mr Paisley had been expecting came from Dolores Kelly (SDLP Upper Bann) during a supplementary question about equality legislation.
She sought an assurance that an Equality Bill would be of the highest standards and that “further to the offensive comments of recent weeks by junior minister Paisley, that minister will have no role in equality legislation in relation to the gay and lesbian community”.
The First Minister responded: “No, I am not in a position to give those assurances – this House is sovereign, this House is Pope.”