At Stormont today..

I had added this to the previous post, on the announcement by the Social Development minister of the withdrawal of funding from the UPRG-negotiated CTI project [added link], but here it is again. A clip from the BBC’s Stormont Live coverage of the Assembly today which captures the end of the minister’s statement, Peter Robinson’s point of order, and the initial reaction in-studio of the DUP’s Edwin Poots and Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson – as mentioned in those updates.

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  • BOM

    A courageous decision that displays the integrity of the Minister of Social Development!

  • Mick Fealty

    Curious to see the DUP and Sinn Fein both managing to blame Ritchie for an outcome that she flagged up as possible over two months ago. Just plain weird.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ritchie came out over 60 days ago and it was crystal clear what is going on.

    The DUP are filibustering to try to keep their UDA friends on board.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mick Fealty: “Curious to see the DUP and Sinn Fein both managing to blame Ritchie for an outcome that she flagged up as possible over two months ago. Just plain weird. ”

    The only way she could have made it plainer was to boil it down to the “Fun with Dick and Jane” level. But when the parties are running on dogma instead of ideas, sometimes you have these moments of conceptual whiplash.

    Besides — a politician with a conscience, who would have thunk it??

  • me

    Shes a brave woman all the same.

  • Aww Come on Now!

    Shame on Martina Anderson for sticking the knife into Margaret Ritchie like that!

    If I was the SDLP I’d be saving and treasuring the last 30 seconds of that videoclip for the next election.

    Seems like SF are going to team up with the DUPs to bash the SDLP for having the guts to stand up to armed and active paramilitaries – well what does that tell people?

  • The problem for the DUP and SF is that finally Ministers are being faced with tough decisions, and while their numerous representatives are just making a hames of things, Ritchie in contrast has shown backbone and done the right thing. Anyone with any decency would support her, but the SF/ DUP axis is too infatuated with doing people down to have any cop-on. However, it is quite clear that Margaret has the support of the vast majority of people.

  • Comrade Stalin

    El Mat,

    I’m not an SDLP supporter but I found Margaret’s take on this inspiring. At long last, someone is standing up to the thugs and telling them “no”.

    I fear the worst is yet to come though. The DUP are going to try every trick in the book here. I hope the SDLP use the opportunity to highlight the DUP’s hypocrisy and shadowy links with the loyalist paramilitaries.

  • I hope so too, Comrade.

  • feismother

    Any chance she could be shuffled into the Health and Education portfolios to take the difficult decisions needed urgently in those areas?

    No? Pity, we need statesmen/women/persons like her round here at the moment.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    ACoN: “Seems like SF are going to team up with the DUPs to bash the SDLP for having the guts to stand up to armed and active paramilitaries – well what does that tell people? ”

    The political party open associated with hoods is scratching the backs of a party that has back-door associations with hoods??

    Comrade Stalin: “I fear the worst is yet to come though. The DUP are going to try every trick in the book here. I hope the SDLP use the opportunity to highlight the DUP’s hypocrisy and shadowy links with the loyalist paramilitaries. ”

    It would be the dumbest thing they could do — particularly if today’s performance was any indication of their level of finesse.

  • DC

    The DUP and SF have long ran on negativism usually pitched at each other, but today the same old technique was used but the track changed towards the SDLP.

    Today showed again that they are so ingrained with negativity that, when someone does a bold, noble and principled act, like Ritchie always said she would do if the UDA didn’t move in the right direction, both the DUP and SF carry on with the same old acrid, dour and sour comments against their own executive minister.

    Maybe one day Peter Robinson, Poots and Anderson will work out how to crack a smile that will make their arse proud.

  • GavBelfast

    Margaret Ritchie wasn’t above her own petty gaffes when she wanted to veto a plan to name a park in the Down council area after David Healy.

    But she seems to have grown since then, and I applaud her for her brave, consistent and plainly correct stance on this issue.

    It’s been the usual SF-DUP guff, and more to come in the weeks ahead it would seem ….

  • DC-

    “Maybe one day Peter Robinson, Poots and Anderson will work out how to crack a smile that will make their arse proud.”

    Indeed. I was up in the public gallery for today’s proceedings and I’ve never seen such a bunch of sour-faced yaps. You should’ve seen the toothless terrier look on the faces of Anderson and Ni Chuilin when their pointless questions got nowhere. The provos kept running to each other to work out what to do about it. Surprise surprise, their solution was to just keep asking the same irrelevant question repeatedly. Genius.

    Meanwhile the DUPers were ignorantly interrupting the Minister at every opportunity and revelling in their uber-idiocy. The heckling of Dominic Bradley when he dared to address the Minister in Irish was particularly interesting to watch.

  • crownesq

    Todays circus is all part of a bigger scheme to gang up on poor Margaret. She is the only SDLP member at the table and the big boys are going to make sure she knows who is boss. Just wait for the funding announcements to be made and it will be quite clear that all her efforts to support affordable housing will be scuppered because Peter does not have the money as the big boys in Westminster (the ones he is afraid of now) have taken it all away.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can we knock the man playing stuff on the head!

  • DC

    Come on Mick, did you not see Peter Robinson on Hearts and Minds particularly at the point where he blew up in Noel Thompson’s face.

    I mean to say that his characteristics are deeply negative and if he doesn’t get his own way he comes across down right arrogant and churlish. Today’s example was no less, it would seem he knew there wasn’t much he could do why bother with all the litigation concerns.

    The minister’s decision is her own decision and final, Robinson should not be concerned over who may litigate.

    A recent example – didn’t the then government offer out to Sheridan Group the role to develop the Queen’s Quay. Subsequently, they pulled that tender away when they couldn’t determine whether it was safe money and a good investment, Robinson’s House of Commons doing.

    I appreciate he has to keep his eye on finances but such is the work of government at times, even his own antics reference Sheridan could blow up in his face if it may happen to go to court re contractual issues. Court is of course costly.

    Ultimately, against the backdrop of UDA in-fighting which was done in a bid to get the money in the first instance, the offer at that point should have been pulled there and then.

    The carrot almost cost a policeman’s life.

    The question worth posing to the SDLP is, if they refuse funding to groups to transform themselves, how to they intend to bring to bear the weight of the law on criminals when the community is bound by fear not to speak which limits the opportunity to bring criminality issues to court and to end.

    The SDLP are against covert policing i.e. Spooks but sometimes your bound profession needs to know no professional bounds.

    What next Ritchie, that’s the main question, what next in terms of regenerating the areas in place of CTI projects.

  • legaleagle

    Now that the SDLP hacks have had their say can we deal seriously with the matter. Was everyone so keen to see the money stopped that they missed the fact that Ritchie acted contrary to legal advice and contrary to the Executive’s agreed proceedure for dealing with the issue? Why would she do that knowing that her decision will be overturned if it has not been done properly?
    Will those who are now singing her praises do so if it is shown that she acted unlawfully?
    Ministers are not permitted to ignore Departmental legal advice and her so-called “independent” legal advice cannot be taken into consideration by her officials who can only implement lawful decisions.
    I have got to ask why Ritchie decided to break the rules and rushed to make her decision without meeting the requirements agreed by the Executive when she could have dealt with the issue at Thursday’s Executive meeting.
    Ministers are required to abide by Executive decisions. She did not and therefore has broken the Ministerial Code with all the implications that flow from such an action. In short she is in a real mess.

  • CTN

    No matter what way its spun Richie is playing a blinder.

    She is outperforming her rival Ruane in terms of positive publicity.

    The stoops have taken the intra-nationalist battle through their single ministry to the McGuinness/Adams autocracy and against the odds are winning.

    Early days yet- but with that shiner from the south and another one expected from Dublin in ’09 Adams and McGuinness are starting to resemble Morecambe and Wise- its all just falling down round them.

    The shinners must move and move quickly to prevent further electoral misfortune under these imbiciles.

  • Mick Fealty

    DC, his point of order was knocked back. End of. It is extraordinary that a parliamentarian of his seniority and stature should have asked a question that he must surely have known the answer to.

    One man’s heroic defence may be another’s negative personal attributes. It’s get us nowhere if discussion revolves around the personal. That’s usually the point at which people stop thinking about the weightier matters in hand.

  • Mick Fealty

    legaleagle,

    That could be. Whilst the DUP has kept its council on this, SF has been telling anyone who will listen that she was solely responsible for this decision. Until today that is, when Martina Anderson accused Ritchie of breaching collective ministerial responsibility.

    I’m long enough following these stories to understand there is often a twisting bend sitting just around the corner and out of site.

    Presumably we can expect the process to begin with someone actioning a judicial review of her handling of the matter?

  • CTN

    Richie will only profit further electorally if “victimised” for not “adhering to the Ministerial Code”, although she may claim specific reasons dictated otherwise and indeed further that although she took the advice on board it was not imperative that she followed it word for word.

    If her opponents think bringing her to court to get this decision overturned will advance them electorally then they are bigger fools than we already know as the positive publicity around the issue would massively assist her attempt to retain McGrady’s seat in South Down….

  • no irish here

    There are a huge number of problems in all of this – problems for not just Ritchie.

    Firstly – and it is lost in the froth – Ritchie was actually considering giving money to the UDA in exchange for guns.

    She inherited this approach from the NIO but then made a viture of it BUT it was a totally stupid thing to do.

    The media spin on this is amazing but I can’t belive that everyone has overlooked the simple fact that Ritchie was prepared to give the UDA money in exchange for guns.

    Secondly – She made the announcement in the media before taking it to the Executive or it seems taking legal advice.

    This is the basis of future legal challenge – because the advice from the department now looks as if it came back and signposted legal difficulties about the contracts.

    It also now appear that when the bad advice came back that Ritchie went to the Executive looking for political cover – god knows she may even have gone to them hoping that they would tell her that she should fund the UDA.

    All of this will come out with a few well placed FOI’s.

    I hope that Ritchie is on sound legal ground because it would be terrible if she was now forced to backtrack or her own civil servants within the department were forced to ignore her decision.

    I think that she has created some problems for herself by coming at this in a media driven way and not really sought to build up alliances for the approach.

    BUT what I am must concerned about is that the whole mess has done nothing and will do nothing about loyalist violence or indeed loyalist alienation.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Secondly – She made the announcement in the media before taking it to the Executive or it seems taking legal advice.

    Why post rubbish ?

    (1) This was announced more than two months ago.
    (2) She did take legal advice, inside and outside the executive.

    This is the basis of future legal challenge – because the advice from the department now looks as if it came back and signposted legal difficulties about the contracts.

    Damn shame the executive blocked progress, isn’t it ? Mainly because the DUP don’t want to be seen to be damaging the UDA. They’re “our lot” after all, right ?

  • Nevin

    According to Poots – in that video clip – Ritchie was supposed to have gone back to the Executive; instead, she went straight to the floor of the house. If Poots version of events is accurate then she has gone further than Foster did on her ‘minded’ decision. Perhaps Foster and other ministers will now follow in Ritchie’s footsteps.

  • no irish here

    Comrade Stalin,

    No harm but the fact is that she went to the media about her decsion before she went to the Executive.

    In your own post you say that Ritchie made the announcement 2 months ago – I agree, she made the announcement before bringing it to the Executive.

    My concern and where I suspect the legal advice may be is that she took the legal advice after making the decsion – which is why she then went to Execuitive looking for political cover.

    BUT on the key points – Ritchie looks like she would have given the money to the UDA if they had done something (anything???) and this would have been a huge mistake. Also has this actually done anything in tangible terms to advance UDA decommissioning.

  • The SDLP lost the moral high-ground on this years ago when they refused to take any action to sanction Sinn Fein when they refused to decommission their weapons.

    While in principle Richie’s decision may have been right, as well as the fact that practically it achieves nothing, she’s now guilty of double-standards.

    Like I said, I agree with the principle but with hypocrisy like this on display from our politicians it’s not difficult to see why Joe Unionist feels alienated.

  • BOM

    I cannot believe the nonsense that has came out from Minister Ritchie’s courageous decision.

    The UDA do not deserve this funding as no other paramilitary organisation would. Should we as tax payers pay for an organisation that takes part in these activities?

    This shambles has made me lose any faith in the Executive – Peter Robinson’s behaviour was disgraceful towards Margaret Ritchie – how can the DUP as followers of God agree to fund such activities?

    The nonsense that came from “Beauty Queen” Anderson made my blood boil too – the Shinners lack of support for a courageous decision goes to show that they would rather fund a paramilitary organisation that support a Nationalist Minister who they see as their rival!

    It will be interesting to see what happens when some of their Ministers have to make difficult decisions in the future.

  • al

    The whole thing makes me glad i’ve always voted for whoever was absolutely saying “No” at the time.

    Shame the DUP have to be such disgraceful hypocrites. Shan’t be voting for them again any time soon I thinks…

    UUP? Nah, not after their PUP misadventure. Although I do have respect for Hermon down here in Bangor.

    Might have to go independent or green party or something next time.

    Hope Ritchie gets credit where it is due whether its technically legal or not. Fact is she’s told scumbags to get their grubby hand out of her sight and fuck off back to their dirty holes. Next thing we need is that decommissioning and then a further “thanks but we’ve still decided not to give you cash”. That should be the result of this game.

  • J Kelly

    First before elmat gets on a her high horse Well done Minister.

    A fewthings struck me about all of this this was announced in early August when the election speculation was rife 60 days hence and we are two weeks out from an election and wallop the SDLP are strong. Gordon bottled it and left the sdlp in a fix. Big decision and no immediate payback.

    The Minister has said that the money will go to protestant/loyalist communities anyway. This is wrong if government has extra money to spend it should be spent on the basis of need not religion or political persuasion.

    Hopefully she was better advised than Mark Durkan was in his advert earlier this year. I hear it might be the same adviser.

  • An Bearnach

    No Irish Here, you really show your hand lifting whole lines from Sinn Fein press releases, eg, the charge that Margaret Ritchie tried to go to the Executive for political cover is word for word from a statement by Conor Murphy, and it’s rubbish. Ritchie tried to get this issue on the Executive agenda in June – long before going to the media – but the agenda is controlled by the Doc Martin duo. She circulated the other ministers with a memo on her intentions before announcing the deadline. Conor Murphy sent it back with a ‘no comment’ which he forgot to mention on Let’s Talk.
    Legal advice is just advice, it cannot be binding otherwise ministerial competence would be zero. It would be interesting if Peter Robinson would tell us why Ritchie should have been bound by advice from the Departmental Solicitor’s Office in his department, since the DSO provided the advice to Peter Hain when he established this deeply flawed project in the first place.

    The truth is that the Executive didn’t want to know about Ritchie’s problems with CTI, and most of all the SF ministers didn’t want to know.

  • J Kelly

    An Bearnach you seem well informed I hope there is no spying going on at Stormont

  • DC

    Any court action??? Nah, it will be an out of court settlement to the tune of £1.2 million.

  • DC-

    “Any court action???”

    I can see it now…

    COURT LISTINGS

    Court Number 1

    10.00am: DUP & UDA v Reality

    Judgement- Case dismissed due to idiotic abuse of process and shameless partisan grandstanding.

  • eye spy

    “An Bearnach you seem well informed I hope there is no spying going on at Stormont”
    Posted by J Kelly on Oct 17, 2007 @ 02:21 PM

    It seems that the senior SDLP press officer is moonlighting as An Bearnach. S.M should really mask his e-mail, if he is to be leak confidential details of executive meetings!!