“As soon as I was in receipt of that legal advice, both external and internal..”

If anyone was thinking that the weekend would see a calming of the fractious Executive they can think again. The Northern Ireland Finance minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, has added to the comments made on Thursday by the Deputy First Minister, SF’s Martin McGuinness, and accused the Social Development minister, the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie, of lying about passing on the legal advice. As with the earlier comments, close attention may be required to the detail of what is being said. Adds More of that advice here.From the Irish Times report

Mr Robinson deepened divisions today accusing Ms Ritchie of having lied about passing him the legal advice she obtained prior to making her decision to cut funding.

He quoted Ms Ritchie of stating on BBC TV: “I am very clear that I agreed and the Executive agreed on Monday night of last week that I was to obtain legal advice and share it with the First and Deputy First Minister and also the Finance Minister.

“As soon as I was in receipt of that legal advice, both external and internal, I supplied it to those three individuals.”

But firing his fresh broadside, Mr Robinson said: “This is a lie. Firstly no legal advice was handed over to be me before it was announced on Monday that the DSD minister was making statement to the Assembly. I first heard she was making a statement through the press.”

He said that on hearing she was making a statement he sent her a letter asking for the legal advice she had undertaken to supply, and claimed “some” pieces of the advice was passed to his office.

Mr Robinson said the dates on the documentation showed Ms Ritchie had been holding some of the advice for a week without passing it on.

I’d suggest that the “some of the advice” being referred to would be the internal advice… which would make the following line pivotal to the accusation.

“As soon as I was in receipt of that legal advice, both external and internal, I supplied it to those three individuals.” [added emphasis]

Also worth noting is the BBC report’s final line on those contested minutes

This, [Mr Robinson] says, is regardless of last week’s controversy over the minutes of an executive meeting on the matter.

, , ,

  • Frank Sinistra


    Then surely that would mean she made the announcement she was making a statement before she had all the legal advice? She made a decision before the advice was in? Or as Robbo says she didn’t hand anything over until he went asking for it?

    Transparency is the absent thing.

  • The Penguin

    Is the fact that Margaret Ritchie was out of the country (in Brussels, I think) for a significant part of the time in question of any relevance in this?
    Bit hard to pass something on if you’re not there!

    On a separate point, is Prime Minister Robbo losing the run of himself? He has dug himself into a deep hole with the public, would he not be wiser stopping digging and starting to mend fences?
    People have little grasp and/or interest in what they see as technicalities. All they recognise is that the DUP and SF are clubbing together and using any means they can to stop a minister from witholding government money from the UDA. It isn’t playing well. I have not met a single unionist in the last few days who isn’t raging at this, and especially angry at PM Robbo.
    I need hardly add that the same thing applies to every nationalist and republican I have spoken to

  • susan

    I find the whole thing so riling that I actually am trying to grasp the technicalities of this, Penguin. And I have a technical question.

    On Tuesday, in his quote-unquote point of order, Robinson said this in his first, immediate response to Ritchie’s statement:

    “Mr P Robinson: I am on a point of order.

    The announcement she has made is contrary to a process set out by the Executive, and the decision is not consistent with the advice offered by the Departmental Solicitor’s Office and senior Crown counsel. I believe her decision is also a breach of the ministerial code and the Pledge of Office. In such circumstances, I wonder whether it is sensible for Members to ask questions based on such a statement.”

    My question is, how would Robinson know Ritchie’s decision was “not consistent” with the advice of McCloskey unless Ritchie had already shared that advice with Robinson? Robinson doesn’t seem to be saying Lockhart’s advice wasn’t handed over, he’s claiming “no legal advice was handed over,” and I don’t understand the claim.

  • Pete Baker


    Robinson’s complaint appears to be centred on the date on the, presumably internal, advice.

    Having sought external legal opinion I wouldn’t have thought an announcement of a statement would be made before that external advice was supplied.

    If Robinson believed he was due to be consulted before that decision was made then I could see why he wouldn’t wait for the advice to be passed on, but would instead chase it up as soon as he heard about the statement.

    But that brings us back to the contested minutes..

    With the additional accusation that an Executive Minister has lied.

  • Frank Sinistra


    An allegation of a breech of the Ministerial Code. Quite an easy one to confirm.

    Is their a sanction for breaking it or is it an aspirational document?

    IMC for Ritchie?

  • Nevin

    Susan, you need to read the whole text to see when Robinson supposedly got part or all of the legal advice from Ritchie.

  • Mick Fealty

    Pete Gregory Campbell made some mention of him and David Hilditch only getting a partial report of the advice in the Assembly session last week.

    Worth a back check:


    In circumstances where a Minister gives a briefing to the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of a scrutiny Committee of the House immediately before an important decision that that Minister is about to announce, what redress do the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of that Committee have in ensuring that they get satisfaction in the future?

    That occurred today, 30 minutes before the Minister for Social Development made a statement on the important decision on which she has just been taking questions. That briefing included a specific reference to legal advice that she obtained that supported her decision. However, it has transpired that that was not the case.

    The technicalities are important.

  • Pete Baker


    The point of order came when the statement was actually made. Presumably, by that time, the advice, both internal and external, had been circulated to those concerned.


    Just to add. And Margaret Ritchie appears to believe that she wasn’t required to share the legal advice until she had all the advice available and, possibly, also had made a decision.

    Back to those contested minutes again..

  • Frank Sinistra

    Additionally only getting legal advice on a statement made with a 60 day deadline after the deadline expired seems a tad incompetent.

    I’d suggest she should have taken legal advice before making the initial statement on how the money was danegeld.

  • Pete Baker


    “The technicalities are important”

    Indeed. But that would be a different technicality from the one raised by Robinson – Campbell and Hilditch aren’t in the Executive.

  • Nevin

    Pete, here’s Robbo’s statement.

  • The Penguin

    Other than the fact that she seems to have promised to do so, why did Margaret Ritchie have to share the legal advice with Oberstrumfuhrer Robbo as well as the Chuckle Bros?

    Does the finance portfolio give automatic superiority over other ministers to the holder? Or was the DUP not too confident that Big Daddy Chuckle would fully understand the legal complexities and possible political ramifications of the lawyerly advice?

  • susan

    Thank you for clarifying that, Pete, I was getting lost. Is there also an agreed timeline of the dates when Ritchie first sought the external and internal advice, and when she received it?

    I suppose I should just scroll down to that Tele piece with excerpts from the advice from McCloskey and Lockhart and see if I can answer my own question.

  • Pete Baker


    That’s an earlier statement.


    I’ve not seen a time-line yet.

  • The Dubliner

    Peter Robinson is making a very serious and derogatory attack on another person’s integrity which he has failed to support with the evidence. Lying implies intent to deceive; and Robinson only has a basis to claim that the minister did not do as he understood she gave a commitment to do, not a basis to claim that there was deliberate deception in the alleged failure. Indeed, it’s doubtful that Robinson even has a solid basis to claim breach of promise based on the wording of the minister’s actual promise as cited by Robinson and whether or not she fulfilled it. If there is to be a court action, it may well be that it is a defamation of character action brought by Margaret Ritchie against Peter “The Punt” Robinson.

  • Frank Sinistra


    Ministers seem to have a responsibility to inform Robbo of anything with budgetary implications.

  • Frank Sinistra


    Ritchie made equally serious allegations without presenting evidence – altering minutes.

    Until we get transparency it’s just the word of eight against three in one case and the word of one against other in the next.

    You can’t call the honesty yet in either case, well you can if you approach the issue with bias.

  • The Dubliner

    Frank, did Ms Ritchie call any named individual a liar? I don’t recall her doing that. If she didn’t, then there is no direct comparsion to a very direct attack on the integrity of a named individual sans any evidence to support the claim.

    Peter Robinson is highly vulnerable to court action here.

  • Frank Sinistra


    Groups, including the DUP, SF and civil servants, have protection exactly the same as individuals from libel/slander. So the comparison is valid.

  • parci

    what robbo’s done is to draw the whole debacle into a series of technicalities and time-lines.

    In chess terms it’s called “creating complications”
    this is what you do when you’re in a losing position. Its a well known method!


  • Frank Sinistra

    This is the 2nd time Robbo has accused other members of the Executive of breaking the ministerial code, the previous time was over the free care for the elderly vote. It ended up being a fuss without outcome that time.

    Is the Ministerial code a toothless document?

  • The Penguin

    Surely if it is only to do with budgetary considerations, Margaret Ritchie would only be bound to advise Oberstrumfuhrer Robbo if or when she had made a decision, not explain how and why she had reached that decision and ask permission.

    “Groups, including the DUP, SF and civil servants, have protection exactly the same as individuals from libel/slander.”

    I don’t think you can be held to have libelled or slandered individuals that form a group if the the said group consists of more than a certain number of people (6 I think).
    With that number and above, the liable or slander is adjudged to be spread so thin as to be meaningless in terms of having liabled or slandered individual people. Hence, for example, if you were to say the DUP and Sinn Fein are no better than Nazis then each member of those two parties could not launch proceedings against you.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Just as a historical footnote, in Purdy’s ‘Room 21’ she refers to previous problems in the first Executive regarding minutes. Both McGimpsy and Empey were quoted as having problems with de Brún demanding accurate minutes. Other quotes from insiders described it as ‘pedantic’, ‘wringing little issues to death over wording’.

    Pity they didn’t learn the lesson then and go for a stenographer or audio records.

  • Frank Sinistra


    How many of them sit on the Executive or take minutes there?

    Though, think ‘McLibel’ and you’ll have an easy demonstration of how your understanding isn’t true.

  • The Penguin

    I’m not trying to score cheap points, just recounting what I understand the position to be.

    If you accuse a group of something that, if it were a single individual, would ordinarily leave you open to legal proceedings, there has to be a limitation on how many people can reasonably claim to have been personally liabled/slandered. As far as I am aware that number is 6.

  • Frank Sinistra

    How did the ‘McLibel’ case work then? There are slightly more working for McDonalds than either the DUP, SF or the civil service.

    And those with a say on the meetings who she named in groups:

    DUP = 5
    SF = 4
    Civil Service = ?

    Less than six in ever organisation she accused of malpractice.

    Though I’m pretty sure the only one facing the courts over this will be Ritchie and then it’ll all come out.

  • Pete Baker

    There is a difference between the two situations, Frank.

    In the case of the contested minutes, we have the officially adopted version – as supported by the DUP and SF ministers against the UUP and SDLP ministers.

    While in this more recent case, the Finance Minister has provided his evidence – the quotes noted above. Which, I’d suggest, are not as conclusive as he may believe.

  • interested

    There’s no doubt that the facts of this case have probably washed over the heads of the general public (at least at present) and that’s why to date Margaret Ritchie has received a fairly favourable press.

    However, the details here are vital and as the days pass her problems seem to increase. Whether she was in or out of the country is irrelevant – she has hoards of Civil Servants who could have passed on the advice to Robinson had she wanted it done.

    However, it becomes increasingly clear that she wanted to grab a few (positive) headlines and let that cloud her judgement.

    Its probably inevitable that this will end up in the courts at some point. The only possible question is over who takes the case – will it be Robinson or Farset?

    Should Ritchie become unstuck, either inside or outside the Courts then it will also pose some problems for those who were so quick to rush in and back her up (take note Reg) simply in an attempt to get one over on the DUP and attempt to take their share of the (currently) favourable headlines.

  • Frank Sinistra


    Just to be pedantic, we don’t have an ‘officially adopted version’, we have official minutes and one person in conflict with them. Rules is rules, there are no versions, no qualification, just official minutes and those that don’t accept them or have a slightly different recollection.

  • Pete Baker

    Not to be overly pedantic, Frank, but yes we do have an officially adopted version.

    And more than one person dissents from that officially adopted version. As you well know.

  • Frank Sinistra


    There aren’t versions. The vote was taken. The minutes adopted are official and the only ones. It would take a JR to challenge them.

    Until Ritchie does that there are official minutes and those that don’t accept them and/or didn’t complied with them.

    No versions involved. Just minutes and dissenters. If anyone wants to change that fact they’ll have to go to court. Recollections or media complaints don’t hold any weight in a bureaucracy, no matter how much some people may think their opinion is worth more weight than the accepted and procedural correct reality. The minutes say Ritchie is wrong, there are no versions involved.

  • veritas

    more smokescreens to hide the real point- ritchie made a good and highly popular decision.let us not miss that point,the rest is an attempt by the dup/sf to attempt to justify their spinelessness to the public.

  • Frank Sinistra

    God preserve us from people that think not using a capital letter or a space after a fullstop hides the fact they are using multiple names. Oldest trick in the book.

  • Pete Baker

    Interesting, Frank, that you’re arguing that the officially recognised version of events is now “official” – to be regarded as “fact”.

    And just because the SF and DUP ministers out-voted the others.

    That’s a commendably democratic approach.. but one that is likely to be abandoned as rapidly as it has been adopted.

  • Frank Sinistra


    They all agreed to the rules. They all took their positions. They vote, the minutes are adopted or rejected.

    I’m agin the whole sham. It seems the SDLP and UUP are joining me. If you reject the rules and procedures…

    Glad to see the dissident body building up such momentum. If they can’t even agree/accept minutes we have a clear demonstration of their inability to work within their own rules.

    The SDLP – exposing Stormont as a farce. Well done them.

  • The Dubliner

    I wonder if Margaret Ritchie doesn’t conclude at some imminent point that the sewer of NI politics is best left to the rats? She has tried to do the right thing when all around her were instructing her to do the wrong thing because appeasing terrorists by giving them control of the apparatus of state and mistaking sociopathic criminals for sincere social workers and statesmen is deemed to be the new black – a wonderful model of peace and reconciliation that is to be held up to the outside world as an example of something other than rewarding criminals with power, privilege, accolades, and pensionable jobs. Or have they dropped the “reconciliation” part beyond it being manifest for the cameras only in the grotesque charade of The Chuckle Brothers on the steps of Stormont but not anywhere else in society? Justice was the very first to go as a sop to murder gangs by letting the gang members out of jail, expediently followed by a simple Truth Commission, as the murdered and the maimed must be forgotten in order for The Chuckle Brothers show to be enjoyed by the public without uncomfortable feelings of guilt for voting society-destroyers into the roles of society-builders, stepping over the bodies of the dead to get their snouts into the state’s trough. Now Ms Ritchie uncomfortably reminds the public that it isn’t morally correct to reward criminals, in much the same manner, no doubt but never said, that PSF were rewarded for their crimes. Ms Ritchie decided that not only was it wrong but that it must be stopped, doing so against the cartel of vested interests who wished to continue the New Black of rewarding criminals, ranging from the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs, the British SoS, the US Special Envoy, the NIO, and the DUP and PSF . Ms Ritchie refused to go along with the cosy cartel of the amoral and asserted that she had the authority to act, doing so against the wishes of those who knew that she was only supposed to do as a puppet is supposed to do and not to actually make autonomous decisions. Having done so, she has spilt the cosy cartel and bothered them deeply by introducing a terrible thing called “morality.” The public seem to support her and this has upset the two main parties greatly, for now they are seen as having done nothing to stop the funding and as having no intention of ever doing anything to stop it, since, after all, it is only fair that the UDA pigs get their snouts into the trough, too. Ergo, the inevitable deflections and smear campaign follows. The honourable mass-murderer, Martin McGuinness informs us that Ms Ritchie is mentally unwell and that we must see her bizarrely moral behaviour in that tragic context. The equally honourable Peter Robinson then informs us that Ms Ritchie isn’t moral at all but is, in fact, completely devoid of integrity: a liar who should not be trusted. Yes, yes, that’s the smear campaign on the move and the deflections are transparent (but successful) attempts to divert the public’s attention away from the failure of the DUP and PSF to oppose funding for the UDA and onto irrelevant procedural details. In the end, folks like it in the sewer. They must do because they voted for the rats. Margaret Ritchie should probably resign from the Assembly and from politics and let the lot of them drown in their own rancid piss and shit.

  • hercules

    Someone mentioned if there is a recorded/ taped version of the minutes taken and if not why not.

    In other committees I have observed the proceedings recorded. I can’t imagine the Assembly executive minutes have not been recorded.

  • Tomas

    The Dubliner,
    Well said that man.
    A grubby little Council set up by Westminister while they barely concealed their laughter and contempt runs into the buffers …. shock , horror.
    The pompous crap that passes for “commentary and diverse opinion on Northern Ireland ” is so woeful. Truly depressing.
    Listen folks … grow up , get a life , see us as we are and as others see us .. and then either drown in shite to laugther or emigrate to somewhere with the grown-ups.

  • veritas

    I doubt that the proceedings in the executive are taped-if they were they would be subject to foi requests.they are taped in other committees or in plenary sessions to allow the note takers to listen to them in order to produce verbatim reports which are published ,unlike the executive whose minutes are kept from joe public.non accountable and non attributable-hence the current dispute.

  • veritas

    All of which begs the question-whatever happened to open government.ps frank i am not duplicate posting i just cant be bothered with caps lock ,typing the words is enough of a challenge for my typing skills

  • A set of Minutes which have to be steamrollered through, after the event, on a partisan head-count? “Shurely something wrong”, as Bill Deedes would have slurred. I think it was Len Feather, General Secretary of the TUC, who had a line about being ill and receiving a vote of sympathy passed by seven votes to five with eleven abstentions.

    We have had three separate issues in play:
    the original decision (where the Robinson-led faction are clearly at variance with the overwhelming mass of public opinion, even in conflict with commonsense);
    the legal basis on which withdrawal relies (which is in doubt, and would need to go through review to be clarified);
    the Minutes (which are a distinctly murky area).

    We now add a fourth: the accusation of lying (which is precisely to what I drew attention a couple of days ago, in a different thread, and others seems to have caught up with).

    It seems that the aim is to obfusticate by adding more and more layers of complication, so that the original issue is buried by persiflage. To whose benefit is that? Which brings one back to the oldest question in the legal textbook: the one about motive — cui bono?

    Nor am I wholly convinced that Robinson can claim to have absolute rights to allocate expenditure. On new expenditure commitments, yes, undoubtedly. But on redeploying monies inside a Departmental budget, a “virement”, less so.

    Therefore he needs to prove that Ritchie had ratted on a policy commitment, a core element of the programme for government.

    I realise I’m addressing some sophisticated observers here, about a complex matter, in a simplistic way. How else can this matters be generally understood?

  • susan

    Dubliner, is there any hope in future of you leaving florid fantasies of “rancid shit and piss” to the love letters of James and Nora Joyce? Plenty of people are able to ponder whether and how Margaret Ritchie might have handled things better without also losing sight of the bigger question of how it is possible the MSD might actually have been required by law to channel £1.2m in public funds to, or at least through, the effing UDA prior to any evidence whatsoever of the UDA decommissioning.

    Nor has the general public lost sight of the diversity of the rainbow coalition poised to profit politically or literally had Ritchie been successfully pressured into rubber-stamping the funding.

    The real mystery is how long prominent leaders in the two largest parties will lumber along under the illusion that ordinary people will ever be made to care more about the choreography of how Ritchie stalled the funding pending actual UDA decommissioning than they care about the plain and simple fact that she did it. And did it not only without the assistance of either SF or the DUP, but in the face of continuing and possibly (for Ritchie) career-ending resistance from them.

    It seems both of the largest political parties had something to gain from Ritchie rubber-stamping the funding. But Ritchie did not, and now leadership of both parties seem cringingly slow to appreciate what they may yet stand to lose for their participation in the whole sorry fiasco.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    This issue in itself is relatively trivial – the timimg for the cut off some funding to the UDA – the reason the DUP have made it such an issue is presumably because they have been arguing that the STA agreement is qualitatively different to the GFA in regard to unilateral action by a Minister. Should Ritchie win out on this one this will allow the OO to point out that one of the DUPs STA red lines has been crossed and more importantly let SF/SDLP bypass what the DUP said was in effect a Unionist veto on change.

  • The Penguin

    Must say, I quite like Dubliner’s florid fantasies but everyone to their own taste.
    The important thing on here for me is the groundswell right across the board, excepting our rightist friends in the DUP and Sinn Fein naturally enough, solidly behind Ritchie and not falling for the water muddying tactics of Oberstrumfuhrer Robbo.
    This is completely in line with the public view.

  • Bretagne

    Malcolm – great post…

    “Nor am I wholly convinced that Robinson can claim to have absolute rights to allocate expenditure. On new expenditure commitments, yes, undoubtedly. But on redeploying monies inside a Departmental budget, a “virement”, less so.

    And perhaps even less so given than this isn’t about spending money, it is either about not spending money, or determining to spend the allocated money on a different vehicle that will impact the deprived areas that CTI was supposed to.

    In terms of cui bono? Here is a starter –
    Robinson and DUP leadership spring to mind – if he has effective control the assembly, given the Doc’s aging rapidly – he becomes the authority figure as Ian jr, and the right wing stalls.
    He is trying to stop the Alexander Haig factor –
    (when Reagan was shot) – by controlling everything. It also explains his increasing desperation on this issue. It would be ironic if
    trying to control SDLP/UUP was his mistake.

    He has shot himself on the foot on this issue, and reloading with abandon…

  • Rory

    I think you will find that that was Vic Feather,Malcolm, unless of course it was Len Murray.

    Apologies for the pedantry. Mick thinks I should get out more, at least out of London, but then the request that I get outa London, and pronto, is one to which I am inured.

  • Tkmaxx

    I believe this should go to court. Elements of the Civil Service have been ‘too minded’ to bullying by British Ministers in the past. They appear to be doing the same now. This is a coalition government 50% of it disagrees with an Executive minute. This minute stands inaccurate especially given it allegedly instructs a Minister to act in a certain way. DSO is supposed to offer independent and priviliged advice to a Minister. Why did they receive a copied memo of the Head of the Civil Service containing references to what Ritchie had supposedly agreed when the HoC knew that she contested their accuracy? From what I have heard on the grapevine Ritchie fulfilled her pledge by giving the three parties her legal advice (both sets)within a hour or less of getting it herself. She only had to convince herself of what she was doing not the other three. The orginal CTI programme was apparently forced through by Ministerial Directive -which is the gobbly gook speech of the Civil Service and DSo which means that they were advised it was vulnerable to challenge by nationalist groups ( and subsequently it was) but the Minister went ahead anyhow. Did anyone in the Civil Service try to nobble the Minister of day.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    there is something deeply hypocritical about your outburst above, because your moniker is a reminder of the state, presumably from which you hail, which put the early edition of Sinn Fein into power at the state’s inception in 1922. The moral silarities between the early and later editions of the same party – is a reality that many Unionist would happily acknowledge. This is also an opinion shared by those ‘folks in the sewer’, as you have chosen to refer to them, as they have voted SF ( later edition ) into power.

    As the civil war in the South illustrated just because you set up a government does not mean that violence will not break out again and the cautious post conflict treatment of the UDA is a reflection of that.

  • Mick Fealty

    I know it’s not particularly heavy, but is there any chance we can keep a mind on the detail here rather than head off on a tangent?

  • Nevin

    The Executive agreed, without any division, at its meeting last week [Oct 8?] how a decision on this matter should be taken. It was agreed that certain actions were required before she would even decide the matter, never mind make an announcement on it. The DSD Minister did not act in accordance with the Executive’s decision. She rushed to make her statement without keeping the conditions set out by the Executive.

    Before she made her statement the Minister was warned by Officials she would be breaching the Ministerial Code but chose to dismiss the advice.

    Under the new Ministerial Code every Minister is bound by Executive decisions and must act in accordance with those decisions. The Ministerial Code has statutory authority. The DSD Minister has therefore breached the Ministerial Code.

    The Minister was asked to take legal advice from the recognised official source – the Departmental Solicitor’s Office (she did not have such legal advice prior to the Executive meeting in spite of the advanced stage of the process).

    The Minister claims her decision has been underpinned and supported by both the Departmental Solicitor’s Office legal opinion and that of “independent” legal advice she also received. One is entitled to wonder why the Minister would have sought a second opinion if the Official legal advice was supporting her position. … Robinson statement – link above

    There’s no mention why the Executive had remained silent since she issued her ultimatum in mid-August. Were the ‘key’ players out of the country, on holiday? They could have spoken out on October 8 or at an earlier meeting of the Executive.

    Has Ritchie’s apparent ‘enthusiasm’ to curb the release of this money anything to do with SF’s support for the likes of the Finaghy Crossroads Group – and the possible leaching of SDLP votes in South Belfast?

    As I noted in an earlier thread it might be useful to look at this row in the context of the Conflict Transformation project for Belfast, in which the DSD is one of nine partners. If the focus is too narrow then we might miss the reality of the larger picture.

  • dewi

    Zilch in me Sunday paper here today (and I mean not a single word) – seems strange given possible implications on peace process and government structure.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    If you are in Free State Dewi then no real suprise there.

  • Rory @ 10:26 AM:

    You are, of course, correct. Actually, on mature reflection it was neither: I think it was Frank Chapple of the EEPTU (which in view of the Union’s factionalism makes the story more likely and more pointed.)

    What remains inexplicable is that I must have been sleep-blogging at half-five this morning. I certainly don’t remember it.

    Nevin @ 01:33 PM:

    Yeah. I went through the statement on Robinson’s website, too. I didn’t see what it greatly added to the sum of human knowledge. And, of course, it’s his edited highlights.

    I like your back-tracking on the tos-and-fros of the SF/SDLP continuing bun-fight. But, in short, which of the two parties is most under pressure? Which has most to lose?

    Ritchie has (and I’m open to correction here) been one the stars of the show. She took the Welfare Reform Bill through (the first piece of legislation to go through the Assembly?). That wasn’t how it was intended to be: the UUP and the SDLP were to be the family pets, indulged with the scraps from the main players’ table. Inevitably, there’s got to be a touch of jealousy among those highly-strung egos.

    Now I detect (from Henry McDonald in today’s Observer — http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2196061,00.html ) that David Ford is hardening up:
    If she is blocked by other ministers around the table at the Northern Ireland Executive, then there is no point in continuing in government in those circumstances…
    You can’t surely sit around a table with people who are trying to prevent you from doing your job. If they do that, the only alternative is to resign and join a new opposition that can give the people of Northern Ireland a real choice at the next election.

    I’ve probably seen that previously; but I had not realised how make-or-break it is.

    It also crossed my mind that I do not grasp why Robinson behaved the way he did. The usual tactic would be to allow Ritchie her moment of limelight, then to reverse the decision in after-hours trading (where he obviously had the votes). That would have left Ritchie to make the choice:
    accept the stuffing and carry through the re-affirmed policy (which neatly and painfully establishes the pecking order)
    resign on a matter of principle.
    Cue Clair Short as an example.

    So either Robinson was suffering a severe dose of the machos or he badly miscalculated.

  • David Ford

    Thanks for the cue, Malcolm, but I think I merely restated what I have believed for a long time: a Government in which people participate on the basis of the lucky dip of the d’Hondt formula without any agreement on a programme for government is an example of poor governance.

    As said elsewhere, Stephen Farry and I told the Assembly Review Committee on Tuesday morning that Alliance believes that Executive collective responsibility was a prerequisite for the effective devolution of Justice.

    We just didn’t realise this would be proven so conclusively within a few hours.

  • The Penguin

    Very little coverage of it in Northern Ireland’s Sunday’s either. Just the ocassional comment piece but little or nothing in the way of large-scale reportage and certainly no editorial comment. Which is amazing when you think about it.

    I think the Sunday World managed not to refer to the story at all. It just has a full front-page spread rehashing the “massive” move that Brigadier Jackie is going to make on Remembrance Sunday. He’s going to change the name of the UDA to the UDE apparently and hand out ties at a £5 a shot to the members just to prove it. He must have stood the UFF down about a dozen times now, if the SW is anything to go by. Some comfort to know the UDA is not going to be selling drugs, prostituting women, threatening beating and shooting locals or extorting money from business people any more, it’ll be the UDE. I wonder if it was the UDE that tarred and feathered the man in Finaghy the other week.

    Makes you wonder how much input there is by government into editorial direction in NI’s Sunday papers and in the media here in general.

  • The Dubliner

    “Dubliner, is there any hope in future of you leaving florid fantasies of “rancid shit and piss” to the love letters of James and Nora Joyce? ” – susan

    Wasn’t that shite and onions?

    “It seems both of the largest political parties had something to gain from Ritchie rubber-stamping the funding.” – susan

    What could they have gained? Let’s look at the context. There is a fundamental principle of justice that criminals should not be allowed to profit from criminal acts. As the DUP were fond of pointing out before it served their interests not to point it out, this was breached by bringing PSF into the political process, effectively rewarding them with the political power that they committed criminal acts to achieve. PSF tried to counteract concerns about the violation of this principle by claiming that their crimes were not criminal acts but were, in fact, political acts; and, ergo, the principle should not be applied to the purpose of preventing them from being duly rewarded. PSF’s supporters and voters are happy to play along with this obfuscation, despite a plethora of inconvenient instances of continuing crimimal acts that can no longer be disguised as political acts and, ergo, are either ignored, denied, or dismissed as the actions of rogue elements. That, however, is not the obfuscation that the DUP played along with: they always said that PSF was a criminal organisation but that it is no longer a criminal organisation because certain ‘tests’ of non-criminality were met to their satisfaction. This was the DUP’s workaround for how that fundamental principle might be violated without being seen to be violated, thereby allowing them to apply the principle to condemn criminal acts and organisations without being open to a charge of blatant hypocrisy and to a charge of having de facto voided that fundamental principle by sharing power with a criminal organisation – indeed, with one of the most ruthless, murderous, and wealthiest criminal organisations in Europe, no less.

    So, the same principle is again violated – and its systematic violation was the basis of the ‘peace process’ – by Peter Hain and David Hanson in rewarding UDA criminals for their crimes with a substantial sum of money. Again, the principle must be violated without be seen to be violated, so the public is wrongly informed that the UDA godfathers receive no benefit from the generous reward. Being legitimised within the communities they plague is not to be considered as a reward, you see – neither is being made respectable by being invited to Áras an Uachtaráin or being invited to play golf with the President’s husband, nor if being seen by their own community as powerful, important, influential, and well-connected people who are granted de facto protection from prosecution for crime – as long as they keep it low level – any reward, either.

    Now this is what Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the British SoS, the NIO, the US Special Envoy and a plethora of other authorities, foreign statesmen, prime ministers, vested interests, Nobel Prize winners, et al, etc, ad nauseam have been proffering and implementing as progressive “conflict transformation” measures rather than rampant bribery. If Ms Ritchie opposes the funding of the UDA on moral grounds and is seen as having the approval of the public for her stance, then all of the former are left exposed to criticism for their amorality, pitted against the will and moral integrity of the public. That is a lot of powerful and conceited people and organisations to piss off with a little defiant dose of “What the hell were you doing here?”

    So, it not a case of what the DUP or PSF could have gained. It’s more a case of what they could have lost: they could be left exposed to a new understanding by the public of how corrupt and devoid of moral authority they are. The charade would be exposed – the game effectively up. It is also incorrect to see the DUP and PSF as the puppetmasters here and not the puppets. They were told by the puppetmasters who authorised the funding that the funding must continue. Ergo, they were merely following the orders of their master by opposing Ms Ritchie’s attempt to stop the funding.

    Welcome to the sewer and remember who voted for the rats.

    “there is something deeply hypocritical about your outburst above, because your moniker is a reminder of the state, presumably from which you hail, which put the early edition of Sinn Fein into power at the state’s inception in 1922.” – It was Sammy Mc Nally

    I’m sorry to inform you that I took no position on political affairs in 1922 due to an absence of birth. Ergo, there is no hypocrisy. 😉

  • June 76

    For my money Sammy’s 7:29 post hit the nail on the head. Robinson doesn’t really give a crap about the UDA (although the ambiguity does him no harm in parts of his constituency) but more importantly he believed that he had reintroduced majority rule by the back door. Unionist majority in the Executive – Unionist veto on change. That is why this is a killer issue for him and that is why he has difficulty approaching it calmly or rationally. If Robinson losses this one, then he losses the basis of his whole SAA strategy and then Reg and others can ask, even more pointedly, what is so different about this DUP version of the GFA?

    What I can’t yet figure is the SF angle in supporting crude majority rule. Another long game?

  • tweedledee

    The Dubliner,

    Welcome to the sewer and remember who voted for the rats.

    Would they be the same people you described in a prior paragraph:

    pitted against the will and moral integrity of the public.

    Consistency, old chap, consistency, if you don’t mind.

  • susan

    Dubliner, what exactly did you think I meant when I said a few posts up on this same thread that “the leadership of both parties seem cringingly slow to appreciate what they may yet stand to lose for their participation in the whole sorry fiasco”? In an earlier thread days ago I stated my opinion that the Executive at present is little more than window dressing for a continuance of what was established under direct rule.

    And how is it you recognise the lunacy of holding someone responsible for things that happened decades before they were born (or at least you do when the “someone” not being held responsible happens to be your own good self) but you regularly issue sweeping moral judgements against people, indeed an entire populace, living their lives in a place you have never called home?

    I read an interview online by Henry McDonald in with Margaret Ritchie today. She doesn’t seem inclined to take your advice to resign and disappear. Says she’s more resilient than that, and intends to stay the course. Good on her. Pyrrhic orgies of self-congratulation are best left to the internet,


    PS I think the onions you are thinking of must have been from “A Portrait,” or “Ulysses.” Nora and Jim were not much for condiments in their correspondence.

  • Nevin

    Malcolm, I put up Robinson’s statement as it forms part of the debate; it’s one of the pieces of the jig-saw. It’s most probably selective and jaundiced but it’s still a primary source.

    I mentioned the feedback I got from an SDLP contact in South Belfast ie the fear that McAleese and SF endorsement of the Finaghy Crossroads Group (and like groups) would lead to a further loss of votes from the SDLP in Belfast generally. Such endorsement could elevate ‘parapolitics’ above the politics of the SDLP-Alliance-UUP spectrum. Why vote for the politics of the middle ground if parapolitics ‘works’?

    Elsewhere, I’ve noted that allegedly godly citizens have gone to the ‘civic police’ for prompt action as going through the official justice process would be slow and, maybe, a total waste of time.

  • Nevin @ 11:33 PM:

    Believe me, I thoroughly approve of your take and the posting of the Robinson piece: it is, as you say, a “primary source” (and about as close as we’ve got to his definite position yet).

    Without getting into the “parapolitics” of this (on which you are clearly miles ahead of where I sit), I’m still totally unable to get a handle on the “why” of Robinson’s behaviour. Ritchie’s is, to me, totally explicable: she seems to have gone ahead with doing what she said she would (though whether or not she had the powers to do so is obviously in doubt, as must be — ultimately — the wisdom and manner of it). However, she does not have the experience of the years of parliamentary experience and manipulation Robinson should have and should evidence.

    I find myself repeatedly ticking the boxes:

    Did she prepare her own statement (the other key primary evidence) without departmental input?

    Since that is unlikely in the extreme (at least from my reading of what seems to be a carefully constructed text), why did the departmental bureaucracy allow her to go ahead? My local government experience tells me that, when a Borough Solicitor lectures and spells out the consequences, it can be a bowel-loosener. A Stormont lawyer must be that at full throttle.

    Why did Robinson intervene so personally? Heaven knows he has enough helots to do the business for him.

    Note that I’m steering clear of the secondary actions by the other parties: that’s a side-show as they endeavour to get their ducks in a line.

  • The Dubliner

    The Dubliner,

    Welcome to the sewer and remember who voted for the rats.

    Would they be the same people you described in a prior paragraph:

    pitted against the will and moral integrity of the public.

    Consistency, old chap, consistency, if you don’t mind.” – tweedledee

    There is no inconsistency. How about attention to detail and context in your critique?

    “It’s more a case of what they could have lost: they could be left exposed to [b]a new understanding by the public[/b] of how corrupt and devoid of moral authority they are. The charade would be exposed – the game effectively up.” – The Dubliner

    Notice that the “understanding” is “new” as opposed to what…? That’s right: the old understanding. So what would the old understanding be? It would be the one that they were hoodwinked into believing as voters. Ergo: “The charade would be exposed – the game effectively up.”

    Supporting Ms Ritchie indicates that the public is asserting the primacy of moral authority which recognises that they were sold a pup. That’s what has the corrupt cabal so scared. Will it translate into a rejection of DUP and PSF at the next election? Will it even translate into a restriction of the current policy of appeasing terrorists and criminals, ignoring their crimes? I doubt it. If folks were sold a pup once, I think the powers-that-be will call it a kitten and sell it to them again. After all, it’s not like you have an impartial press that will actually tell you the truth, is it? They’re just the salesmen.

    “And how is it you recognise the lunacy of holding someone responsible for things that happened decades before they were born (or at least you do when the “someone” not being held responsible happens to be your own good self) but you regularly issue sweeping moral judgements against people, indeed an entire populace, living their lives in a place you have never called home?” – susan

    I think that if you vote for PSF that you do so knowing what you are voting for: a criminal organisation that masquerades as a political party. It is a fascist organisation that murdered close to 2,000 people, maimed tens of thousands, set unity back by several generations, and achieved nothing except power and prestige for its leaders. It continues to manage its vast wealth accrued from organised crime, tens of millions, for the benefit of its leaders.

    There really isn’t any point in you trying to tell me that I shouldn’t shake my head at people who vote for such an organisation or that I should believe that sociopaths – devoid of the capacity to serve any interests other than their own – are fit and proper people to hold elected office, to then be expected to overcome their psychological dysfunction and serve the best interests of society.

    If you elect the amoral, then you get amoral actions such as their degenerate behaviour regarding Ms Ritchie and the issue of UDA funding. So, in that respect, I feel less tolerance for the voters. I dearly hope that they learn the lessons here and apply then, but I don’t think they will. Folks vote for them because they feel they will better serve their own sectarian interests than the alternative. Since the decision is selfish and sectarian, I suspect that it doesn’t matter if the consequences of that decision are too.

    I’m happy to be proven wrong by nationalists not voting for them, however. But what does my non-residency in the north have to do with it? Many northern nationalists would agree fully with my points. I’m opinionated, so sue me. If they ever got into power in the south, it would be time to dust off my Hungarian passport and be gone. 😉

  • tweedledee

    The Dubliner,

    Notice that the “understanding” is “new” as opposed to what…? That’s right: the old understanding. So what would the old understanding be? It would be the one that they were hoodwinked into believing as voters. Ergo: “The charade would be exposed – the game effectively up.”

    So now you’re saying the “new” is the moral public, and the “old” was the public were “hoodwinked”. In other words, the public were moral in the “old” times back in March as well, they were just “hoodwinked”.

    A bit different from what you said at the start:

    In the end, folks like it in the sewer. They must do because they voted for the rats. Margaret Ritchie should probably resign from the Assembly and from politics and let the lot of them drown in their own rancid piss and shit.

  • veritas

    after this weeks events,the prospect of a dup/sf justice minister is getting scary.

  • Rory


    I think that you are probably on the right track in attributing the saying to Frank Chapple, the darling of the Daily Telegraph and the bete noir of the Morning Star. Not my favourite trade union leader as you might well imagine, but he did have a sense of humour no doubt tickled by all those feathers he accumulated in his own nest.

  • Rory @ 10:42 AM:

    Yeah, I think we’ve got the right [sic] one with Francis Joseph.

    Due respect for Baron Chapple of Hoxton in the County of Greater London. And I’m feeling very queasy …

    Makes me nostalgic for those days when we used to bellow out Leon Rosselson’s Battle Hymn of the New Socialist Party:

    [All together now!]
    We will not cease from mental fight till every wrong is righted,
    And all men are equal quite, and all our leaders knighted;
    For we are sure if we persist to make the New Year’s Honours list,
    Then every loyal Labour peer will sing The Red Flag once a Year.

  • Rory

    Leon Rosselson’s anthem – as Maurice Chevalier would have it, “Ah yes, I remember it well.”

    Then every loyal Labour peer will sing The Red Flag once a Year.

    Even that’s a tune too far for them nowadays.

    After a lifetime of TU leaders with good old down-to-earth proletarian names, Jack Jones, Hughie Scanlan, Mick McGahey, Len Daly, Vic Feather, Len Murray I was disconcerted when along comes one with the unlikely name of “Rodney Bickerstaff”.
    “My God!” I thought, “What next? Peregrine Featheringstone-Faunshaugh or Bunty Cholmondley-Landgrabber or somesuch?

  • Rory @ 05:27 PM:

    But what makes it even more sad (apart from all the wasted years …) is that Rosselson must have done that back in the early Sixties (as I recall it was aimed at Gaitskell and the Clause IV debates of 1959!) Somewhere in the attic I’ve got the original Topic EP.

    Also on the same disc (as I recall) were gems like:
    I am a Tory lady, sir, of gentle disposition;
    I go to church on Sunday, sir, and feel it is my mission
    To educate the masses in the art of gentle living,
    By teaching them to follow the example I am giving

    [That one was always preceded by his story of the speaker at Tory Conference demanding that rapists be birched before they were hung, “to teach them not to do it again”)
    Dear John Profumo, I’m writing to tell you,
    Though I’m sure that you’re not to blame,

    Again, my recollection suggests that Profumo was in the cold before that ditty hit vinyl.

    And what about Alex Glasgow’s “Socialist ABC” (from “Close the Coalhouse Door”)?

    Of course, we don’t need stuff like that in these enlightened times, … err, do we?

    Hey! I feel a blog entry coming on!