Allister: To spin this process as “independent investigation” is inapt…

Jim Allister, no doubt one of the prime political beneficiaries of this crisis, has just issued this challenge to Robinson’s claim that the departmental solicitor was sufficiently independent to carry out the investigation… He lays out his case against that assumption, below the fold:From Jim Allister:

“As Peter Robinson struggles to save his political career he has proclaimed he will be subjecting himself to “an independent investigation”. The reality seems to be very different: rather, he is to seek, apparently at the taxpayers’ expense, the opinion of an unnamed barrister.

“Obtaining counsel’s opinion comes no where close to “independent investigation”, yet, strangely, no media correspondent seems to have challenged this audacious claim.

“Obtaining counsel’s opinion works like this – the differences with “independent investigation” are obvious:
1. The instructions of the client (in this case is it Mr Robinson, Mr Robinson as First Minister or the joint office of OFMDFM?) are conveyed, almost inevitably in writing. Will those instructions and any accompanying documentation be published?
2. The barrister frequently raises issues for clarification, either through correspondence or via consultation with the client. Will all such correspondence and consultation notes be published? Likewise if documentation is requested will it be identified and published?
3. The barrister in due course presents his opinion, normally in writing. Will that Opinion be published in full?
4. Will the identity of the barrister be made known, or will that remain secret?
5. Sometimes the client nominates the barrister he wishes the solicitor to instruct. Will such be done in this case?
6. The barrister is paid for his Opinion by the client. Will the public be told how much?

“To spin this process as “independent investigation” is inapt.

“Yes, independent and public investigation with proper and adequate terms of reference would be appropriate, but seeking to pass off obtaining counsel’s opinion as such is misleading. Being economical with the truth has been tried by the DUP in the infamous deflection by Ian Paisley Junior that he “knew of” Seymour Sweeney. Now is a time for transparency and candour.

“Then, there is the important issue of on whose behalf this opinion is being sought. OFMDFM is a joint office. McGuinness has a veto on every action of Peter Robinson as First Minister. Has McGuinness assented to counsel’s opinion being sought? If not, how can the Accounting Officer of OFMDFM approve and such expenditure?”

  • It appears from 2:34 in the second Robinson interview that McGuinness hasn’t given approval for this course of action. I don’t see how SF can maintain credibility if they go along with this route. Why is McAlister not asking about developer relationships? He was extremely cagey on the point yesterday on Nolan, not even committing to saying he would ahve disclosed in the circumstances.

  • Well, Jim Allister is a barrister. Perhaps the case could he handed to him šŸ˜‰

    No ‘in house’ investigation is ever likely to be perceived as independent. One of the investigators in the Rathlin ferry contract saga had previously acted as an expert witness for Government in Government procurement problems that ended up in the courts.

    Why make a fuss about a breach of the ministerial code now when there was an opportunity to query the failure of Foster and Dodds to take the Causeway Visitor Centre decisions to the Executive – another ministerial code issue?

    Why make a fuss about declarations in the Register of Interests without looking at declarations pertaining to the ‘Thursday Club’?

    Rules and regulations need to be applied consistently; they ought not to be used solely as weapons in a ‘blood sport’.

  • Without the involvement/co-operation of the lady at the centre of this story what is the point of any investigation? And would that contribution in any case provide greater clarity?

  • Garza

    DUP donations are ‘under review’

    Mr Robinson told the News Letter he had donated his salary to the party
    The Electoral Commission is reviewing some donations the DUP should have reported, it has emerged.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8449844.stm

    More trouble for the DUP on the horizon!

  • Scaramoosh

    “developer relationships”

    As I understand it, there is already an investigation being carried out into local government corruption vis a vis developers…

    “Jim Allister, no doubt one of the prime political beneficiaries of this crisis”

    Whilst fragmenting the Unionist vote and humbling Robinson, may serve to boost Allister’s ego, and may win over certain members of the “lunatic fringe” to his party, even he must know that he is trampling on very dangerous ground vis a vis handing power to Sinn Fein (or, is this in fact his aim…)….

    P.S. Is Turgon on holiday all of a sudden?

  • Pete Baker

    “Obtaining counselā€™s opinion comes no where close to ‘independent investigation’, yet, strangely, no media correspondent seems to have challenged this audacious claim.”

    *Ahem*

    “Although, Iā€™m not entirely convinced that the departmental solicitorā€™s opinion will be a sufficiently independent response to what the Guardianā€™s Michael White identifies as the political problem – ‘the political problem is transparency and accountability in a world which now demands it even in Northern Ireland, as it does for the once untouchable Adams.'”

  • Mrazik

    P.S. Is Turgon on holiday all of a sudden?

    Posted by Scaramoosh on Jan 09, 2010 @ 10:55 AM

    I hear Chamonix is nice at this time of year.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Without the involvement/co-operation of the lady at the centre of this story what is the point of any investigation?”

    Conveniently she’s out of the country/too unwell. And, they only have a week.
    Of course such “independent investigations” don’t always seek to involve all the central parties.

  • [quote]Whilst fragmenting the Unionist vote and humbling Robinson, may serve to boost Allisterā€™s ego, and may win over certain members of the ā€œlunatic fringeā€ to his party, even he must know that he is trampling on very dangerous ground vis a vis handing power to Sinn Fein (or, is this in fact his aimā€¦)….[/quote] … Posted by Scaramoosh on Jan 09, 2010 @ 10:55 AM

    Presumably the lunatic fringe are existing DUPers who would be thoroughly disgusted with the pathetic performance of the first team players, Scaramoosh, or are you referring to others who would be admiring Jim Allister’s more intelligent leadership with smarter shared views on exposing an abiding superior unpleasantness which would think itself indispensable and above reproach and due diligence, and think to hold the local administration and devolution of Policing and Justice in the country to ransom, with the ridiculous notion, also echoed by Shaun Woodward ….[i]”But I think we have all got to be conscious that the [devolution] process is bigger than any one man.”[/i] … http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8449778.stm …. that one person is vital to any negotiation, is a damning indictment of the DUP collective leadership, which would then appear to be just that, a one man band.