It’s that man again. A fiery Sammy Wilson let rip against an unctuous Shaun Woodward at an NI Select Committee hearing this afternoon with a host of grudges – over pressure to devolve Justice and Policing, funding Irish language programmes, “gifting” MoD sites, treading on the Executive’s prerogatives and “one-sided behaviour” generally. “You wouldn’t treat Scotland that way!” he complained. After Sammy’s tirades, you’d fear the DUP were about to declare UDI…Woodward had no doubts. About anything. Only polite hesitation for fear of rousing the natives. Devolution of justice and policing should happen now. “There’s no practical reason not to do it.” Peter Robinson’s speech at the Waterfront showed the “kind of leadership that we’ve seen since 97,” ( but not from Peter, Shaun.)
Are you exerting pressure, Secretary of State?
Momentum yes, pressure no.
Sammy Wilson’s fuse had burnt out even before the display had begun. His sharpest comment to Woodward was : How could the unionist community contemplate devolving justice and policing after the judge’s remarks about the IRA covering up evidence in the McCartney murder?
Mallusk’s finest Kate Hooey (still a Labour MP, I think, but Olympics adviser to Tory London mayor Boris Johnson and about as close to the DUP as it’s possible to get ), joined with Sammy Wilson to suggest that someone had put words into George Bush’s mouth in Belfast when he linked his backing for future US investment to the achievement of “full devolution.” Bush though ” a very clever man” wouldn’t have thought that one up on his own, now would he?
Woodward, all smarm and injured innocence (” with the greatest of respect to Mr Wilson,”) could only drive Sammy further and further up the pole, and the chairman Sir Patrick Cormack, no slouch at unctuousness himself, tried to wind up the tetchy exchanges and move onto the comparatively safe ground of fuel smuggling.
But not before Woodward had steeled himself to deliver a little lecture about value for money to the British taxpayer. There’s no point in “gifting” ( when did they make it verb?) fresh MoD sites to the Executive when they can’t make use of previous gifts, like the Maze.
Not your prerogative to champion a stadium, snarled Sammy.
I was only answering your question, wheedled Shaun.
The stadium was a purely political project and we’ll not go there, thundered Kate. And she should know about stadiums, having been sacked as Sports Minister by Tony Blair, unfairly I thought, in the terrible wrangles over trying to make the emerging new Wembley Olympics-compatible. But we’ll not go there.
Oh yes. And Gordon Brown’s gift of an extra six million quid for Irish language programme development just after Gerry Adams dropped by wasn’t political at all- it was just the same as what happens in Wales, Woodward assured us.
Pull the other one, Shaun.
But he’d been pulling it all afternoon.
As for Sammy, never fear. Peter has it all under control. Hasn’t he?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London