May I introduce.. the Minister for…

The Alliance Party leader David Ford has criticised the number of Executive Ministers accompanying the Northern Ireland delegation to the 41st Annual Smithsonian festival in Washington – 7 ministers are heading that way. He does have a point.. and the balance to be struck between maximising the impact of our new political dispensation and our own expenditure on this event doesn’t seem to have been as considered as it should have been. Additionally.. the arguments in favour of the mass invasion certainly seem to assume that the lid is, indeed, tightly screwed down on the past.

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  • Belfast Gonzo

    Why does everyone spell ‘Ford’ wrong?

    :oP

    I think this was the junket to end all junkets, as far as gravy train passengers go. Excessive to say the least. Imagine if the floods of last week were to happen tomorrow, and what effect that would have on public confidence in the executive.

  • Pete Baker

    “Why does everyone spell ‘Ford’ wrong?”

    Bah.. my fault, Gonzo. A brain fart. ;op

  • wild turkey

    many are called … and even more show up.

    question. can the individual expenses for this junket be requested thru and FoI request?

  • Pounder

    Well I guess the MLA’s wanted to get in a cheap holiday before their busy time of the year, the main Parades season. The Stormont Love In is rapidly becoming a orgy.

  • snakebrain

    I’m sure they can wild turkey

    Just find a form letter for FoI requests and send it in yourself. Just be careful about the wording.

    They’ll probably try to brush it off first time round; send it in again requesting clarification and they should spill the lot.

    Post it on here and give us all a (bitter) laugh

  • I Wonder

    Don’t hold your breath.

    I suspect the claims will be somewhat staggered – a description appropriate also to the behaviour of quite a few attendees over the next wee while. 🙂

  • Rapunsel

    Actually Forde is being pathetic on this one. He is not decrying that NI needs to develop a relationship with American business and the Smithsonian Festival has @ 1 million visitors . I suspect he’s annoyed that he’s not there himself.

  • He is not decrying that NI needs to develop a relationship with American business and the Smithsonian Festival has @ 1 million visitors .

    1 million visitors who are all businesspeople out to do business? I think not.

    Ministers can pay for their own holidays. It’s not like they don’t earn enough to begin with.

    Kensei? Fair Deal? Chris Donnelly? Michael Shilliday? Any of you fancy defending this crap?

  • Plum Duff

    So not only do we have to pay a fat pension and severance costs for those that the people turfed out, we now have to divvie-up for all the freebies that these money-grabbing tossers can clock up.

    And why do I have the feeling that the size of the squad over there has something to do with keeping an eye on the ‘other side’?

  • martin

    Wild Turkey & snakebrain

    No need to use a form letter or even to mention the FOI Act. Just write or email DCAL requesting the info, if they don’t acknowledge within 3 days and substantively respond within 20 (working) days, then they’re in breach of the Act. They can’t ‘brush it off’.

    A refusal to deal with your request under the terms of the Act (or a failure to observe the terms of the Act correctly) can be appealed internally (DCAL)and if you’re unsatisfied to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

    And if you were interested in the environmental impact of all these flights, then a phonecall requesting the appropriate info will constitute a request under the Environmental Information Regulations (again, no need to specifically mention the Regs) with stricter obligations and a wider definition of ‘Public Authority’ than FOI.

    Have fun…

  • Cynic

    Ford arguably does have a point but he is just so damned annoying its hard to take him seriously.

    Out of interest, would anyone know which minister are going and which aren’t so we can examine this junket in a little more detail?

  • Pete Baker

    Cynic

    According to the Belfast Telegraph, seven ministers will be in attendance..

    McGuinness, Robinson, Poots, Dodds, Kelly, Ritchie and Empey.

  • cynic

    Aha, so really the weakest links are Empey and Ritchie…from the two moderate parties that Ford needs votes off, the plot thickens, hard not to be a cynic in politics really.

  • Rapunsel

    Noone yet has presented a cogent argument why 7 ministers should not go on this trip. Why don’t you go on the Nolan show which is probably the bets place for discusisng the merits or otherwise. Forde’s argument is not even clear , he mildly asks why so many people need to attend– not much of an argument. Not one poster so far has queried why we should cosy up so close to the US and its government – all hyperbole over free holidays? Some fucking free holiday, did you not see the state of Edwin Poots dressed in a NI branded short with a red , white and blue tie , looking like a tour guide rather than a government minister! Get over yourselves

  • Pounder

    The Finance and Deputy Fist Minister have an important part to play there, however what positions do the other freeloaders hold that makes their presence essential? If anything the presence of so many ministers stinks of desperation, not the best way to start new trade and business links.

  • John East Belfast

    I think some of you are way under estimating what a priviledge it is for NI to be one of the two countries/regions featured this year at this event.

    It is a one off not likley to be repeated in any of our life times and coincides with a line being drawn under our own local past. It also represents an important opportunity to present NI as a good place to visit and also invest.

    I would have little doubt there would be a payback on whatever they spend on sending the 7 plus their staff there – what £50k ?

    If it gets us another 100 US Tourists spending £500 each we break even.
    It will get much more of course and probably some investment.

    Not to mention if it helps further foster good relations and better understanding between our Ministers as they work together for the good of NI then that will help us also.

    Forde is increasingly presenting himself as an embittered and irrelevant irritant who does not understand the issues or chooses not to for the sake of cheap sound bites

  • wild turkey

    martin

    thanks for the advice.

    question. is the entire scam, junket, sorry major promotional effort, being carried out under the auspices of DCAL or should seperate letters go to the departments of the seven respective ministers?

    forgot to mention, I also intend to ask what impact measures and monitoring schemes are in place to measure the success or failure of the venture.

    I think I’ll let my six year sons fully functional bullshit detector make an initial assessment of the responses. this is going to be fun… for the entire family

  • I think some of you are way under estimating what a priviledge it is for NI to be one of the two countries/regions featured this year at this event.

    And you think the magnificent seven up there are the best way of promoting Northern Ireland??? Hmmmm…

    I wonder how much of their crowded schedule will be taken up with knocking back cocktails in the Georgetown Inn (er sorry, networking), taking pictures of the Whitehouse and the Capitol and going off to Pentagon Mall for a spot of shopping?

    You remind me of the MP who tried to defend going on a taxpayer funded research trip into brothels in the Philippines.

  • And sorry for the double post, but this is from the official Smithsonian Festival website:

    “The Northern Ireland program will bring to Washington the region’s finest performers, artists, storytellers, craftspeople, cooks, and workers to help explain, demonstrate, and celebrate their culture.”

    I think they can do a better job of promoting ‘here’ than our woodentop politicians. (Edwin Poots?)

    And folks, be honest with yourselves. How many of those of you presenting this as the business networking opportunity of the milennium had even heard of the Smithsonian Festival before yesterday?

  • John East Belfast

    Sammy

    You clearly no little of what you are talking about and how the world of business networking works.

    I have substantial business interests in the US and spend a lot of time there and I know presenting NI as a politically stable and post conflict region ripe for investment will be to our benefit.

  • Pounder

    The Duty Leaders of the two largest parties, Robinson and Maginness can demonstrate that well enough on their own, what justification is there behind the other 5 hangers on?

  • lib216

    Everyone in the Dublin government goes abroad to beat the drum (what an unfortunate phrase) for Ireland every Paddy’s day and it seems to work for them.

    Our politicans do something right and we all jump on them…..bloody typical Irish begrudgery I call it.

  • Interesting dilemma for our Culture boss, Mr Poots on Sunday at 1 o’clock.

    Does he have a go at the whiskey making, listen to “Songs of the North”, have a jig at the N.Ireland dance workshop or cook some potted salmon with Norah?

    Or does he follow the teachings of his church and “spend the day with his family” (the excuse previously given for not going to GAA matches)?

  • moochin photoman

    Storm in a tea cup.
    Like em or not the 7 are over there generating interest, future investment, funding and visitors for us all.
    This is a prestigious event and there are no half measures for such a global event. The money spent on this now will benefit us for years to come and i welcome it.
    I would add that I’m not a fan of Poots as Culture Sec, i suspect that there is more culture in a yoghurt.

  • You clearly no little of what you are talking about and how the world of business networking works.

    You clearly ‘no’ (sic) little of what politicians do on foreign junkets… lazy-arsed bunch of shopaholics, in my experience.

    I have substantial business interests in the US and spend a lot of time there and I know presenting NI as a politically stable and post conflict region ripe for investment will be to our benefit.

    “I located my pharma lab in Newry because I met Gerry Kelly at the Smithsonian Festival. He said he’d do my knees if I didn’t.”

    Like em or not the 7 are over there generating interest, future investment, funding and visitors for us all.

    “I’m a fat capitalist pig and I went on a high-spending holiday to Northern Ireland because I met this charming, witty, bubbly personality called Edwin Poots at the Smithsonian Festival. We spent hours discussing the sexual tension in Tristan und Isolde and Wagner’s own sexual ambiguity and he invited me to Dromara look at his collection of Flemish miniatures.”

    Look folks, there are lots of people at the Smithsonian Festival showcasing all that’s best in Northern Ireland. We didn’t really need any politicians showcasing what’s truly mediocre about this place. And if we do Robinson (comes across well with the hawkish redneck business types) and McGuinness (good at being the cheekily charming Irishman with the roguish smile) are plenty of representation.

    This is just junketry of the worst order; the presence of Margaret Ritchie (who I like and don’t want to dis) just underscores it; Margaret is there to make sure the SDLP has representation. I suppose if it works as a sort of Executive awayday and helps them bond, it might be worthwhile. But I doubt it.