Border Politics II

I blogged last week about Minister Edwin Poots decision to take Forestside (and all its rates) out of Belfast and give Belfast the loss making Robinson Centre and Dundonald Ice Bowl.

It got me thinking about the obvious conflict between Minister Poots’ membership of Lisburn Council – soon to be merged with Castlereagh and this decision.

Surely this is the sort of conduct the Ministerial Code would have something to say about? The Northern Ireland Ministerial Code states that ministers must:

…observe the highest standards of propriety and regularity involving impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relationship to the stewardship of public funds.

… declare any personal or business interests which may conflict with their responsibilities. The Assembly will retain a Register of Interests. Individuals must ensure that any direct or indirect pecuniary interests which members of the public might reasonably think could influence their judgement are listed in the Register of Interests.

Minister Poots includes in his register of interests:
• Councillor, Lisburn City Council.
• Lisburn Leader Ltd.
• Lisburn City Centre Management.

So here is the question.

Is Minster Poots decision to rewrite the Boundary Commission report in such a self serving way a conflict of interest and a breach of the Ministerial Code?

  • Carson’s Cat

    Conall,
    So are you saying that a Minister cannot or should not take a decision for an area they represent as an MLA?

    Would that not be a conflict of interest.

    Grow up.

  • Honest Politician?

    Conall,

    Your bordering on a sticky wicket here. Margaret Ritchie has come close to if not breaching the ministerial code on several times in the ast 2 years. I firmly believe if some people stepped forward she would be a goner.

    Ease up son

  • Seymour Major

    The political interests are irrelevant and are not included in the code.

    I dont know anything about Lisburn Leader limited.

    Whenever there is a decision about boundaries, it will always involve party political considerations (always has done) and if the Minister had been a different party, the same accusations would be flying across from those crying “wolf”

    Poots has a political conflict of interest – no doublt about that but he would whether he held other offices or not.

    If he takes into account matters that he should not take into account, his decision could be ultra vires and challenged in the High Court (remember de Brun’s decision on the location of a hospital a few years ago). A High Court action which Poots loses could be very embarassing for the DUP. That should give him food for thought.

  • Carson

    The potential conflict is his membership of the local authority which he declares on the register.

  • Peter Fyfe

    Conall

    I think carson’s cat was being as dishonest as poots on stormot live today. People are not questioning his position as an MLA but as a councillor who would be concerned with rates that Lisburn city council want their hands on. You are right to question whether as a minister he should only have to be accountable to the people that elect him rather than being more responsible in his role as a minister. Let’s not beat about the bush however, we know he does not want a nationalist belfast. The decision should be left up to the boundary commision that was appointed to make the decision, politicions can not decide on electoral boundaries. Or at least they should not be able to.

  • Occasional voter

    Would the 600 000 odd citizens of the greater Belfast metropolitan area not be better served anyway by one council able to co-ordinate services?

  • salem

    This is spot on Conall – he might not want a nationalist Belfast but they are happy enough to cut away any nationalist voice within Lisburn City Council. Its a disgrace was is currently going on in this supposed City for everyone ! The SF response is laughable – oh its the SDLP Fault. Seriously is that the best the SF press office could come up with!

    TBH i am very suprised that he thought it was ok to appear on newsline showing were he felt the line was. But rumour has it he had broken with the party line and was refered to a “a header!” Funny how the other two DUP MLAs have be silent on this issue. Perhaps keeping their distance from the trouble.

  • Joe

    Poots decision is a gerrymander. No two ways about it.

  • Having sat through the Lisburn City Council planning committee meeting which featured the representation from Dunmurry Community Association.

    Edwin Poots was in and out of the council chamber like a yoyo, avoiding various bits of business.

    As I blogged back in September,

    Edwin Poots (a Lisburn councillor as well as MLA and Environment Minister) absented himself during two of the planning presentations to avoid a conflict of interest should he be called upon to take a view on them with his minister’s hat on. There was some discussion around whether leaving the council chamber was sufficient, or whether he needed to leave the building completely. Again, no conclusion.

  • J Kelly

    The issue here is not about SF position its an attempt by a minister to over ride the Boundary Commission for political benefit. The SDLP supports Poots and attempts to potray Sinn Fein as abandoning nationalist to Lisburn. Sinn Fein are putting the record straight no interference with the Boundary Commission for self interest, no amount of spinning and clouding the issue will get the sdlp off the hook on this one.

  • Brian Heading

    J kelly.
    When it suits SF to challenge boundary commission reports they will challenge the recommendations.
    The example was the Westminster Boundary report back in the 90’s which moved West Belfast into Finaghy and Balmoral wards. These recommendations were made by the same independent Boundary Commissioner they ,SF, now put up as a fig leaf to justify leaving a nationalists under represented in the new Lisburn Castlereagh Council.
    The real game, as everyone will know, is for SF to be the biggest party ( not having to rely) on Sdlp or Alliance votes to get overall political power in Belfast and the shock that will have on the Unionist Community of losing their “capital” to SF.. There is some evidence that SF may wish to back track on their proposal to insist on Dunmurry coming into Belfast. Paul Butler himself proposed a compromise at a council meeting where the Dunmurry Community assoc made a presentation on keeping Dunmurry in Lisburn. I have no confirmation if SF HQ had sanctioned this shift in policy towards the boundary issue.
    As I said in the statement carried in the A Town News and the Irish News on the number votes currently needed to get a seat in lisburn and the number needed in the future ifA all the Nationalist wards are taken out will lead to Nationalist Voters unable to get any representation. Are we back to the days of Derry when Unionists divided up the city wards to suit their own political aim of excluding Nationalist representation-hopefully this will not happen in Lisburn.

  • Queens Student

    Brain,

    Is it appropriate for you to make such comments as… when Unionists divided up the city wards to suit their own political aim of excluding Nationalist representation

    How can you claim to represent all students impartially at the Union when you make such politically loaded claims. Yes they are true, but if any of the other Union staff stood up and called Bobbys Sands a convicted terrorist who starved himself to death they would be out on their ear, even though what they said was true.

    Your reputation for this sort of stuff is growing

    I think I will send this link to Gregson and Brogan to complain.