“Just a bit of politics”?

The breach of Executive confidentiality yesterday by the Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning, the UUP’s Reg Empey, and his description of the dysfunctional NI Executive being “run like a huckster’s shop”, wasn’t deemed sufficiently newsworthy to be mentioned on the main BBC NI news [Newsline]. And, as noted yesterday, although it got plenty of radio coverage, there was a considerable delay in it being reported online. Was that something to do with NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, dismissing the comments as “just a bit of politics”? [see below the fold] Here’s Reg Empey talking to Martina Purdy – as broadcast on Stormont Today last night – apparently confirming that the semi-detached polit-bureau does continue to meet – even if other ministerial representatives are not invited. Now, about those alternatives.. Update Statement from Reg Empey.

NI Finance Minister, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, dismissing his Executive colleague Reg Empey’s criticism as “just a bit of politics”.

Adds And here’s the Hansard record of the comments which sparked the row off.

The Minister of Finance and Personnel (Mr Dodds): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Let me say, for the sake of clarification, that I would have been absolutely delighted to make a statement on the June monitoring round in the Chamber this morning. It was not that the matter was not agreed; rather, it was deferred at the request of two Executive Ministers who wanted more time. Let us be in no doubt as to why no statement has been made in the Chamber today. It was not members of my party who made that request. Can I also say — [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order.

The Minister of Finance and Personnel: I am making a point of order.

I am sure that other Executive Ministers and I will be happy to make a statement to the House whenever the House wishes one to be made. It is for the House to decide when it wishes to meet and in what form it wishes the statement to be made. I, and any successor of mine — indeed, any Minister — will comply with whatever the House wishes. At the end of the day, it is not for us to dictate to the House; we must work with the House. I can certainly undertake that, if the House makes a determination on how it wishes to proceed on the matter, it will be followed through on.

Mr Speaker: OK, Members, let us move on, please.

Mr McNarry: On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: Order. Is it the same point of order on which I have already deliberated for quite a while, or is it a totally different point of order?

Mr McNarry: It is a further point of order —

Mr Speaker: No. Order —

Mr McNarry: Excuse me; it is a further point of order that is different to the issue.

Mr Speaker: Well, let us hear it.

Mr McNarry: Thank you. Is it the case that the Minister can be permitted by you, Mr Speaker, to —

Mr Speaker: Order. I ask the Member to take his seat. He is coming very close to making the same point of order.

Mr McNarry: But if —

Mr Speaker: Order. I ask the Member to take his seat. I have spent quite some time trying to explain the position and how the Assembly might agree on this. Both the Finance Minister and I have spoken in an attempt to resolve the issue, and the convention for resolving the issue for the benefit of the entire House is absolutely clear.

The Minister for Employment and Learning (Sir Reg Empey): Can I make a point of order?

Mr Speaker: Yes, certainly.

12.15 pm

Sir Reg Empey: When I was sitting upstairs a few moments ago, I heard the Minister of Finance and Personnel refer to the absence of a statement today. I ask the Minister to reconsider what he said. I did not ask for the matter to be deferred. The papers were late and were delivered only an hour or so before the meeting. I said that I was not taking any view on them: I did not ask for them to be deferred. However, why should they be served up to me and the rest of the Executive at such stupid notice?

Mr Speaker: I want to make it clear that the House should not get involved in how the Executive do their business. Let us move on.