“Someone may have to consider his/her position”

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?

  • Paul P

    Is it likely that Robinson would really make a blunder of this magnitude?

  • Who knows? There is a great deal more to this story than the actions on any one player. And most of the crucial links appear to be missing right now.

  • Briso

    Who do you think is more surprised by the proximity of ‘considering your position’ time? Heh heh.

    Methinks Margaret saw this a long way off and did it anyway. Brava!

  • The Dubliner

    A lot of people should now be considering their positions in light of Ms Ritchie’s decision not to support the funding of schemes that have the ulterior purpose of legitimising and furthering the ambitions of organised criminals and in light of the public’s overwhelming support for the propriety of her decision. First to do so in the south should be the President, Mary McAleese. If she doesn’t resign, then she should be impeached for bringing the Presidency into disrepute by her disgraceful behaviour – or, at the very least, publically censured by the government and told to immediately stop her support for organised criminals.

  • susan

    It is worth highlighting that the Tele piece at one point gets off the fence long enough to plainly state….”there was no justification for continuing to support a project which had been devised by the direct rule administration to help the UDA transform itself. The project has to be transformed.”

    Given that, given the fact that Ritchie has publically pledged to deliver economic aid to deprived loyalist areas through other means, isn’t it Robinson, rather than Ritchie, who is precipitating a crisis?

    Thank you to Pete, Mick, and Red Diesel for keeping us up with the hairpin twists and turns on this story, by the way.

  • Turgon

    I have a grim fear that Margaret Ritchie may have done something which will be open to sucessful legal challenge.

    Even if her actions are sgown to have been legally incorrect that does not make them politically or morally incorrect. The morality of giving money to what seemed to very many to be an organisation at least linked to the UDA was extremely dubious at best. To continue to give the money whilst the UDA remains involved in criminality and has made no real effort to decommission is both politically and morally ludicrous. It may well be, however, that her decision is legally incorrect. If she has to resign over this it will be quite disappionting. What will be even more disappionting will be that the executive have to continue to provide money which seems very likely to be going to the UDA.

    Those who point out that the SDLP is being hypocritical because in the past they did not demand decommissioning of the IRA are correct but currently that point is irrelevant. I do not think it is unfair to say that the vast majority of people here; of all political viewpoints and none would oppose giving money to the UDA.

    The DUP actions here have been at best problematic. If Robinson is correct and Ritchie has been acting in a fashion which can be shown to be legally flawed he was correct to make an issue of it, if necessary in public. He should, however, have made it abundantly clear in public that he had no desire for this money to be handed out but could not prevent it. To have attacked Ritchie and not put in this caveat was politically foolish.

    I begin to wonder if the DUP are badly out of touch with the unionist electorate on this issue; and maybe others. It would not be the first time that a unionist party began to get out of step with the unionist electorate and we all know what happened then.

  • Bemused

    Agree with the general tenor of the posts here and the clear sub-text of the Tele article – Robinson has shot himself in the balls in spectacular fashion. With the Shinners, the Stoops, Alliance and increasingly the UUP seeing which way the wind of public opinion is howling it looks like Robbo and his fellow travellers are becoming increasingly exposed as the vile terrorist-suckling hypocrites they’ve always professed to abhor. I’d imagine Alisdair McDonnell is rubbing his hands with glee.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The DUP have, without outside assistance, managed to appear to align themselves with the UDA and at the same time act like the thugs and bully boys in the UDA.

    Clontibret, berets and firearms certificates come to mind.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  • Fitzy

    this has probably been mentioned before, but I wonder if the dup’s current cowardly position has something to do with the fact that a catholic/nationalist party is taking money away from a protestant/loyalist organization?? if it were the like of the uup in the sdlp’s position, and one of their ministers had gathered enough spine to take the stance that ms ritchie has, would the dup be acting as they are today.

    tribal politics are a bastard, but it seems there’s no avoiding them in the north.

  • Is it likely that Robinson would really make a blunder of this magnitude?

    Let’s end the Robinson mystique. Is Robinson a shrewd operator? Undoubtedly. Is Robinson endued with some sort of magical powers which mean he is incapable of making a mistake? Nope.

    Is Robinson capable of being led down the garden path by civil servants determined to defend their personal interests (and who seem to be a little sloppy at writing minutes when it suits them)? I think so.

  • Hogan from County Tyrone

    I’m a bit bemused at all this sh!t about Robinson being some sort of a legal genius?

    For a start Castlereagh College of Further Education is hardly Oxbridge!

    Also over the past 30 years which one of Robinson/Ritchie was dumb enough to get themselves arrested?

    Don’t get me wrong, i have no doubt he was the chief architect of the rise of the Duppers and to plot the downfall of the UUP given their intellectual and material resources at the time means he has an astute political brain. But i think it vastly flatters him to think that he understands the legal niceties of this any more/less than Ritchie.

    Although perhaps ‘learning’ of the private legal advice that Ritchie received would give him a slight advantage? Although even Peter wouldn’t be dumb enough to admit that? Oops he already did!

  • Hogan from County Tryone

    It would seem we cross-posted Sammy. Agree with your sentiment.

  • Turgon

    Bemused,
    “I’d imagine Alisdair McDonnell is rubbing his hands with glee.”
    Indeed but if and it is a big if; but if this seriously damages Robinson, I suspect there will also be an Allister (surname this time) rubbing his hands with glee.

  • Bemused

    Bemused,
    “I’d imagine Alisdair McDonnell is rubbing his hands with glee.”
    Indeed but if and it is a big if; but if this seriously damages Robinson, I suspect there will also be an Allister (surname this time) rubbing his hands with glee.

    Posted by Turgon on Oct 18, 2007 @ 05:55 PM

    I’m sure Allister will be rubbing his hands with glee at the simple fact that someone he considers to be an enemy has gotten himself into a hole. That said (a) who out there does Allister not consider an enemy? and (b) if he’s deluded enough to think that he’ll gain any electoral capital out of this then good luck to him – the electorate will punish the DUP by going back to the UUP/Alliance – Jimbo and his band of perma-miffed flat-earthers won’t benefit one iota from Robinson’s vile antics.

    As for South Belfast – Chinny Pratt has as things stand now precisely no chance of un-seating McDonnell. The people of South Belfast tend to be fairly unreceptive to parties which align themselves with terrorists (As the Shinners have repeatedly found out to their cost).

  • Turgon

    ” Jimbo and his band of perma-miffed flat-earthers won’t benefit one iota from Robinson’s vile antics. ”

    No we will probably not benefit but if the DUP are damaged then some may see a new party as a way forward rather than with the UUP.

    The UUP do have a number of problems. There was their brief dalliance with the PUP and there is the ongoing danger that they will move towards the Alliance in order to prevent a haemorrhage within Peter Brown’s pale. A move towards Alliance would not make them especially attractive to a significant section of DUP voters. I suspect you are correct and if by some chance the DUP got into serious trouble with this; the UUP would move to the right. They have, however, not always showed much political sense.

    I would agree with your views regarding South Belfast but all this may well blow over quite quickly.

    We will just have to wait and see regarding all this.

  • no spin please

    While these threads are very interesting and informative…. its becoming clear that the SDLP Press office is working overtime, on trying to distract attention away from the core issue. M.Ritchie has got herself into a legal hole, which may open the assembly to all sorts of legal action being taken, which will have to be defended and if judged unlawful, will have to be paid for by US…You and ME!!! Yes..she took a stand, and she hopes that will build her profile and that of her party…..and in essence no one wants to give money to thugs…. but the real issue of legal right and wrong is what really matters. If a judical review is successful, they will get the money back!!

    So…no more spin. Someone should really take up the matter of “leaks” from within executive meetings with the assembly. The SDLP press office are even forgetting to mask their e-mail addresses on some posts, as they are in such a flap to distract our attention. On several other threads the Senior press officer is disguised by many different names, but has used his personal gmail account to post..
    Come on…..!!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    NSP: “While these threads are very interesting and informative…. its becoming clear that the SDLP Press office is working overtime, on trying to distract attention away from the core issue. M.Ritchie has got herself into a legal hole, which may open the assembly to all sorts of legal action being taken, which will have to be defended and if judged unlawful, will have to be paid for by US…You and ME!!! ”

    Correction: She *MAY* have gotten herself into a legal gray space, filled with all sorts of possible unintended consequences. Some of these could impact her, the Social Development regieme as a whole or the Executive in toto.

    Frankly, it could go either way, since the bureaucrats didn’t come to the table with clean hands or an open mind.

    NSP: “Yes..she took a stand, and she hopes that will build her profile and that of her party…..and in essence no one wants to give money to thugs…. but the real issue of legal right and wrong is what really matters.”

    Only if you want to give money to thugs, NS.

    It could be she’s right, insofar as the legal beagles within the gov’t were the ones who said this sort of one-eyed “jobs for the boys” was kosher at the start of this mess. I’d almost be willing to lay even money that someone in the bureaucracy was giving his bosses the answers they wanted, rather than the one’s that the law decrees.

    NSP: “If a judical review is successful, they will get the money back!! ”

    Uh-huh… just like we were told that Ritchie was gonna cave…

    It may be that Ritchie is wrong on one level and right on another — she could be wrong in simply turning off the cash-spigot, but the whole notion of nationalist or loyalist only social dev programs go out the window, necessitating the collapse of the CTI program anyway. It is still too early to scream the sky is falling.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Hogan writes:

    For a start Castlereagh College of Further Education is hardly Oxbridge!

    I don’t like Robinson much, but I have a greater dislike for people who are snobby wankers.

    Turgon, this ties nicely with the thread earlier this week. The DUP is the de-facto political wing of the UDA and that is what we are seeing with the goings-on in the executive.

    At the same time, Sinn Fein are overreaching themselves in their lust to become the defender of the colonial power. They seem to be unhappy about local ministers overturning direct rule decisions. First over the UDA, and now over the Irish language act.

    I did expect the two parties would have trouble defending themselves to the electorate, but now they both seem to be intent on wrecking themselves utterly. Reminds me of an alcoholic in an offlicense with a stolen credit card. The DUP are going to have to explain to their voters why they objected and obstructed over an effort to remove funding from the UDA, as well as all this business with the Giant’s Causeway. Sinn Fein are bent out of shape over the water charges and are now retrospectively rewriting their manifesto commitments. I guess if the executive collapses they’ll blame the media. But will the electorate let them get away with it ?

    no spin please:

    but the real issue of legal right and wrong is what really matters.

    It’s a shame that Robinson did not feel the need to remind the OFMDFM of this when they decided to restart the process to appoint a new victim’s commissioner, isn’t it ?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Turgon

    “If Robinson is correct and Ritchie has been acting in a fashion which can be shown to be legally flawed he was correct to make an issue of it, if necessary in public. He should, however, have made it abundantly clear in public that he had no desire for this money to be handed out but could not prevent it.”

    I hope you won’t mind my saying so Turgon, but this is a revealing contribution. While you undoubtedly do object to the UDA receiving public money, your principal objection is to a unionist politician not making sure that respectable unionism has sufficient plausible deniability when it comes to backing loyalist terrorists.

    As in, you don’t like the UDA getting money, but you REALLY don’t like it being demonstrated to the world that mainstream unionism and murderous loyalism are in bed together.

    Which, of course, everyone has always known. But of course, it has always been very important to unionists that they be able to deny it, now matter how preposterous that denial might be.

    Truth is, few nationalists will be remotely surprised to see the DUP working overtime to support the UDA. Political unionism has always given cover to murderous loyalism.

    The reason you mightn’t have noticed is that, it seems, unionist and nationalist ears are attuned differently, and we both tend to hear what we want to hear. So for example, it has always seemed enough for unionists to hear their representatives say words like: “I totally condemn all violence,” even if through their actions they then proceed to support loyalist terrorism. Whereas nationalists always tended to focus on the latter, not the former.

    In short: mainstream unionism never condemned or opposed murderous loyalism. Not in any meaningful sense. It just claimed to.

    As Col Nathan Jessop famously said:

    “You can’t handle the truth.”

    (Natch: nationalists have often been guilty of very similar hypocrisies.)

  • Rory

    “As Col Nathan Jessop famously said:
    “You can’t handle the truth.” ”

    The next time some jaded contributor makes reference to this quote from the film A Few Good Men can we all agree that he (for it is always a “he”) be taken out and quietly shot?