Dramatic turn in the Stormont stand off. It seems the FM and DFM are not prepared to back
a motion of censure (just received a correction to that from a reliable inside source. There was no motion of censure planned) over Margaret Ritchie. Instead they have suggested the two ministers ‘go into a huddle’ and sort it out betweent themselves. Slugger understands that Margaret Ritchie put on record that the minutes of the last Executive meeting, which implied she had undertaken to postpone her decision pending approval at today’s meeting were simply not true. Curiouser and curiouser… Ominously, perhaps, this afternoon’s edition of the Belfast Telegraph warns that this is getting close to ‘considering your position’ time.
Update: Mark Devenport blogged earlier, “It looks like the Finance Minister is going to go away and seek his own legal advice. Whilst some hacks are dubbing Ms Ritchie “the Terminator” because of her attitude to UDA linked funding, others have decided that the Finance Minister must be “Robbo Cop” because of his zealousness in policing the Executive protocol.”
If Ms Ritchie is right, and the CTI contract obliges the UDA to begin decommissioning weapons and stop violence and criminality, Mr Robinson may have to consider his position. If she is wrong, and her decision is found to be illegal, she may have no alternative but to consider hers.
In any case, the credibility of the executive has been damaged in the eyes of the public. Two ministers, representing the SDLP and DUP, have disagreed vehemently over whether public money should be used for a project supported by an illegal organisation. If the executive cannot agree that conditions should be attached to such money – regardless of the legal niceties – what respect does it deserve?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty