“…answering the legitimate questions of legitimate watchdogs”

DUP questions about European expenses have brought an angry response from Jim Allister. He said the queries were about:

“…trying to sling mud in his direction”

Last week, Mark Devenport’s questioning of Jim Allister led him to admit for the first time that his constituency office was owned by his family. He had previously admitted he employs a family member. In his media profile, one of the roles Allister has adopted is guardian of the public purse, such as the Rathlin Ferry contract, installation of Cardinal Brady and City Council Chicago trip, as well as demanding speedy and accurate answers to his questions.

The DUP have always adopted an all-out attack approach to Allister which certainly hadn’t worked before Dromore. This is an approach I argued hadn’t worked and should be replaced with TUV treated as sceptics who needed to be persuaded. Also this line of attack usually ends up making all politicians look bad. However, his refusal to answer anyone except “legitimate watchdogs” seems to be an misjudgement. It certainly gives any politician the TUV questions an easy reply.

Allister legitimately points out he has answered more questions than either of his two fellow Northern Ireland MEPs. Only Alllister replied to Open Europe’s transparency survey (excel spreadsheet). A number of years ago queries by the UUP’s European Committee about MEP expenses were slapped down by the leadership. MPs and MLAs expenses have been examined in the past while, is it time for the three MEPs to be asked and answer the same questions?

  • Simon Hamilton: “Mr. Allister has chosen over the course of the last fourteen months or so to set himself up as the guardian of transparency in government and the champion of openness. His frequent recourse to Freedom of Information requests is well-documented.”

    Fair Deal: “In his media profile, one of the roles Allister has adopted is guardian of the public purse, such as the Rathlin Ferry contract, installation of Cardinal Brady and City Council Chicago trip, as well as demanding quick and speedy and accurate answers to his questions.”

    I see no shame in being a guardian but how is responding to constituents’ requests related to ‘adoption’ of such a role?

    Jim Allister is one of a number of politicians from different parties whom I’ve approached in the pursuit of information for the NALIL blog.

    Frustration is understandable when Ministers or Civil Servants use the FoI system as a means of delay; it’s also counter-productive. If there is fraud or other forms of corruption in the bureaucratic process it needs to be dealt with promptly and independently.

  • “Rathlin ferry contract”

    I’m not sure that Declan O’Loan has been keeping up to speed with the ferry fiasco otherwise he probably wouldn’t have put out this press release [bottom of thread].

    Declan was one of the MLAs who was left to twiddle his thumbs on Friday and Madeline proposed that Moyle District Council’s discussion of the ferry contact be heard in committee, a meeting that her two SDLP councillors unexpectedly missed.

  • bisto

    Interestingly Fair Deal, the Open Europe survey was only responded to when the DUP asked why Mr. Allister hadn’t filled it in or returned it…..

  • bisto

    Also oddly, Mr. Allister’s retort to Simon Hamilton doesn’t appear on his website. How often do we read: “Allister responds to Mr. X” or “MEP Lambasts Mrs. Y” on his wesbite?

    Jim Allister the latest On The Run?

  • bisto

    DUP Assembly Member for Strangford Simon Hamilton has questioned why Jim Allister appears so reluctant to answer simple questions concerning his office expenses and allowances. The Strangford MLA compared Mr. Allister’s demands for openness and transparency with his refusal to answer the question put to him by Mr. Hamilton over a week ago. Commenting, Simon Hamilton said,

    “It seems truly strange that Mr. Allister is so unwilling to answer the list of questions that I have posed to him. They are perfectly legitimate questions and they will not go away. Mr. Allister of course has crafted for himself a public image as the guardian of transparency and openness in government. Indeed when Mr. Allister was firing Freedom of Information requests and questions at other people he boldly declared:

    “It will be no answer to try and divert attention by attacking me the messenger, let’s have utter transparency, honesty and candour.” (Source: Jim Allister’s Website. 15 January 2008)

    With such a strong track-record in the pursuit of transparency, honesty and candour it seems strange that my posing of simple questions to Mr. Allister should have been described as mud-slinging. It is no answer for Mr. Allister to attack the messenger, let’s have utter transparency, honesty and candour from him. Only just over a fortnight ago did Mr. Allister admit that his family owns his constituency office, now he must answer some further questions about where his expenses are being allocated. I will continue posing these questions to him until they are answered in a full, open and transparent way.

    1. How much did Mr. Allister claim for travel expenses from the European Parliament since his election?

    2. How much is each individual employee/service provider in his office paid from European funds?

    3. Does Mr. Allister pay European funds to any family members? If so, what for?

    4. Who administers his website? How much are they being paid for that?

    5. How many trips has Mr. Allister taken since election to the European Parliament?

    6. What was the total cost Mr. Allister claimed back from the European Parliament for travel expenses?

    7. Have European Funds ever been used to pay office rent to the owner/owners of his office at any time?

    These are questions that every Assembly Member, Member of Parliament and Councillor in Northern Ireland has to answer. Let’s see if Mr. Allister applies the same standards of openness and transparency to himself as he does to others.

    His spurious defence that he has answered questions from legitimate watch-dogs seems strange coming from a man who has repeatedly used the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to ask questions of others. Full answers to the above list of questions are not provided on Jim Allister’s website. The public have a right to know what Mr. Allister is doing with public funds. Let’s see a full disclosure in answer to all of these questions in the interests of fairness and transparency, which of course Mr. Allister believes in strongly. Only transparency, honesty and candour will suffice.”