The DUP play the old switcheroo…

Well, who expected that? That was as neat a trick as I’ve seen in a while. It has to have been pretty well prepared in advance. Robinson out of the hot seat under provisions within the St Andrews Agreement as shown below the fold. Arlene Foster becomes acting First Minister (a former UUPer, who the conventional wisdom ran would never get on inside the DUP). And, as Gerry Kelly pointed out on Stormont live there is still the crisis over policing and justice. Only now, it doesn’t feel like a crisis for anyone else. Six weeks is all Robinson has to clear his name. In the meantime the press is digging and who knows what that will throw up. Foster says Robinson will fall for any viable bullet that due process may deliver. So it’s never over until the fat lady sings… But, I have to admit, I never expected this turn of events…(

11) The holder of the office of First Minister or deputy First Minister may by notice in writing to the Presiding Officer designate a Northern Ireland Minister to exercise the functions of that office—

(a) during any absence or incapacity of the holder; or

(b) during any vacancy in that office arising otherwise than under section 16B(2),

but a person shall not have power to act by virtue of paragraph (a) for a continuous period exceeding six weeks.

  • slug

    NI has a woman in her 30s as FM! I really like this aspect outcome.

  • joeCanuck

    If Robinson takes a proper break, goes away and lies on a warm beach, for example, he may realize that there is the possibility of life outside of politics. It would do him a lot of good.

  • Iris has done something for women in politics after all

  • Greenflag

    Well at least there’s a time limit i.e 6 weeks . There are 120 million NIgerians who would like to see a time limit for incapacitated leaders as their President has been in Saudi Arabia undergoing medical operations for the past several months with no sign of a return any time soon .

    Africa/Nigeria must be changing 🙂 . A decade ago the 6.00 am news bulletin via the BBC world service would have broadcast from their reporter in Accra that Lagos airport had been closed down and Government buildings occupied by the new ‘replacement ‘ General Objunkwu or so .

    NI will of course never change 😉 Arlene Foster seems a sensible enough woman . Who’d have thought it a female person of the opposite sex leading the DUP . And no it doesn’t ring true . As an ex UUPer she could conceivably be a unifying force for ‘unionism’ ??

  • iluvni

    I suppose we’ll have more learned opinion sought as to whether his ‘absence’ is a valid enough absence to enable him to designate a replacement for 6 weeks.

    Nothing like some sleight of hand to keep the whole expensive farce trundling on.

  • Garza

    Must admit, that is what damned clever move by the DUP. The ball is in SF’s court now.

  • danielmoran

    Surely this rule doesn’t allow a first minister to replace himself, since he is not incapacitated himself. His office is Joint with Marty. I can’t see this stunt holding to the road for one week, never mind six weeks

  • RepublicanStones

    It seems fair enough. A lot of people have denied Punt the judge and jury and moved straight to building the gallows, he should be afforded some time considering what he and his family are going through.

  • pilgrim505

    I though that assuming control, when the incumbent was unable, was the role of a deputy, not a replacement.

  • brendan

    There is precedent. Reg Empey assumed the FM functions of David Trimble for a while in the previous Executive. He and Mallon ran the show for about a month or so, duringone of Trimble’s NSMC stand offs.

  • brendan

    In fact, he was DETI Minister as well, maybe that’s a pre requisite!

  • Drumlins Rock

    as i said earlier, suits everyone this, he clings on but is severely damaged, there is a possibility that he is genuinely trying to sort out P&J now, as his legacy at least.

  • alan56

    ‘Absense or incapacity’ is the term ‘a’ above.
    Surely if PR intends to continue negotiations or other leadership functions then he cannot cliam either ‘absense’ or ‘incapacity’ ?

  • cut the bull

    Mervyn Storey, Davy Simpson and the Maurice Morrow fella looked very unhappy in the Assembly today.
    The DUP still has Iris listed on its web-site as a DUP MLA/MP.

  • bonaduche

    YOU HAVE TO HAND IT TO PETER
    A SICK LINE FOR SIX WEEKS … HARD TO GET NOWADAYS
    WILL HE QUALIFY FOR THE DLA

  • Paul

    its a smart move aright they the DUP have wrong footed the sinners mind you thats not hard.

  • slug

    It seems reasonable thing to ask when your wife is in hospital and would seem churlish of a party not to consent to it. He could argue temporary lack of capacity to do all of the jobs but capacity to do a subset of them.

  • Lionel Hutz

    This is an abuse of the power in my view. He should have jsut resigned. Typical nonsense

  • Quite good realpolitik but this may exaggerate the problem in the long-run, which could ironically hinder Foster’s leadership ambitions. This is dangerous because Campbell (G) as leader would be disastrous for everyone.

    SF can simply say this is a stunt and when the DUP have stopped playing at a time for serious answers (the irony) they’ll continue from last week. I don’t think there would be any loss of face – which seems to be its highest ambition these days.

    Iris herself may be happy, from the Newsletter interview:

    “Are there any female politicians in Northern Ireland whose style you admire?
    Arlene (Foster) is a very attractive lady and I’ve noticed she has some lovely outfits. She is a sharp dresser. But I don’t think there are any others that would stand out for me.”

    Then again, maybe not:

    “I was disappointed when Dr Paisley didn’t offer me a Stormont ministry. He favoured Arlene Foster. She was the golden girl who got the job. I was delighted for Arlene, despite the fact she’d only joined the party.”

    Were complaints submitted to the Parliamentary Commissioner at Westminster and to the Standards Commissioner at Stormont?

  • villager

    Presumably they could nominate somebody else, say Dodds, in 6 weeks time? If Robo can’t come back and they don’t want to let Sinn Fein collapse the assembly then this could go on indefinitely, like the old suspension treadmill.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick

    You appear to be in permanent spinning mode these days…

    Things are currently sitting very nicely for Sinn Fein at Stormont.

    The party has the capacity to pull the plug on the institutions, safe in the knowledge that the DUP will be blamed for not moving on Policing and Justice.

    The turn of events in recent days will have bolstered the TUV and UCUNF, who clearly detect the opportunity to make hay in the coming weeks as an election campaign begins to grind into action.

    So, from Sinn Fein’s perspective, isn’t it best to sit tight and see if Robinson is willing to come up with the goods regarding P and J? Who knows what ‘the strategist’ is thinking at this time? Perhaps his line that 2010 is a ‘year for delivery’ for the people of the North gives an indication that he believes a positive achievement over P/J may form the best backdrop for the election.

    Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be holding out hope that more digging by Breen- or even a hasty rush to publish ‘those memoirs’ by Moloney- will do significant electoral damage to Sinn Fein.

    Whatever about the party’s difficulties in Dublin recently, regarding ‘the process’ it remains quite sure-footed, and that’s what’ll count.

  • Paul

    The DUP are sorting this unlike some parties who have a leader whos not fit to hold any public office.

  • cut the bull

    That could be a tactic a rolling nomination with a finger up to sinn fein at six weekly intervals

  • McGrath

    Meanwhile the digging into the robinsons background will continue. If there is a ticking timebomb in their affairs, there will be serious motivation for Peter to sort P&J out. If he can straighen out P&J or rather the reasons for the objections to it, he will be politically reglorified.

  • It’s opportune that the DUP can make such careful use of the SAA on aspects which suit themselves while ignoring entirely other provisions – ie the provision to deliver an Irish Language Act.

    That’s not to say that I don’t believe SF have questions to answer – and serious ones at that – over the recent controversy over Liam Adams and who knew what and when. If we’re to have high standards in high office, it should be across the board.

  • cut the bull

    Its a six week respite to kick the keep Pete campaign into touch

  • tacapall

    #

    The DUP are sorting this unlike some parties who have a leader whos not fit to hold any public office.
    Posted by Paul on Jan 11, 2010 @ 05:20 PM

    Sinn Fein leader = Child abuser brother

    DUP leader = Whore of Babylon wife, maybe it will come out she groomed young Kirk at an early age.

  • alan56

    SF could collapse the assembly now and claim ‘confusion and lack of public confidence as a reason to go to the people. Could wrong-foot the SDLP and look justified in the public eye?

  • Scaramoosh

    Classic Ulster “sleight of hand” …the untouchables remain untouchable (for now..)

  • villager

    They could do that Alan but politically they can better maintain the high ground if they refuse to nominate rather than actively collapse the process.

  • seamus friel

    Much more to come when the minutes for planning committee meetings for the past 25 years in Castlereagh are examined. Many business people and developers in Belfast were not surprised at all by the £50,000 being given so readily by developers. When Peter’s level of wealth for the past 20 years is compared to his income from political posts especially 10,15, 20 years ago when he didn’t hold many positions, there may be questions a la Haughey. FOLLOW THE MONEY . THERE’S PLENTY OF IT. the real story is not Iris it’s peter’s relationships with developers and anyone wanting to do business with the Council.
    This is old news but thanks to Spotlight for lifting the lid a bit.

  • tacapall

    #

    They could do that Alan but politically they can better maintain the high ground if they refuse to nominate rather than actively collapse the process.
    Posted by villager on Jan 11, 2010 @ 05:31 PM

    Brinkmanship from both of them, Sinn Fein are no different from the DUP when it comes to money, double jobs, etc, like how many roles can one person play this trickles down the line to jobs for the boys. Both parties members have a big financial carrot to eat at the Assembly, Westminister, Europe, Councils, Chairmanships, Policing boards, they must be shovelling the money into their banks, the “One man one Vote” term obviously doesn’t apply to jobs.

  • Oh my baby darling

    paul = tacapall?

    Stroke of genius by the DUP, althought we’ll have to see what if anything, is revealed by Panorama…

  • tacapall

    #

    paul = tacapall?

    Stroke of genius by the DUP, althought we’ll have to see what if anything, is revealed by Panorama…
    Posted by Oh my baby darling on Jan 11, 2010 @ 05:48 PM

    Tell me where am I telling any lies, Individuals from both parties are milking the gravy train, do they trust no-one else to do their other jobs or is it about money.

  • the future is bright the future is orange

    pretty sly move from the DUP. Try and get the Robbo’s out of the press and hope that another news story comes along. If I were the DUP I’d have thrown Gregory Campbell in as 1st Minister. Let him do a totally crap job and everyone would be begging for Pete to come back…

    On the other hand this is a nice bit of publicity for Arlene in an election year so again, tactically not a bad move.

    How P&J can be delivered in the short-term, I can’t see. Whilst it is outstanding, then there is another political story, apart from Robbo.

    That all said, who knows what other stories are to come out in the next few days and weeks! In addition, I wonder whether this will start an open season on Ulster MLA’s – lots of dark secrets hidden away methinks!

  • Pigeon Toes
  • joeCanuck

    The enhanced moderation of the past few days seems to have been relaxed.
    You should be ashamed of yourself, Pilgrim.

  • granni trixie

    Cometh the crisis commeth the women. Arlene is a capable,intellegent women and, long term, whatever happens, this move will do her career no harm.

    However, I do ponder: is this a creative solution which gives time to the DUP/PR to find a solution(ie PR digging down in the midst of personal crisis).

    Or is this ‘temporary’ appointment a weak move in that Foster has the responsibility of being First Minister without all the functions (PR to take care of P & J). So she is a half First Minister, which I regret. How will this half job work in practice?

    And would, say, Dodds, have taken on FM under these terms? Is he waiting his time? If so, he may have misjudged as I feel confident that Foster will not be found wanting and therefore be a signifant rival to anybody should the “full time” FM became available.

    I cannot see myself ever voting DUP but as Arlene is to my mind one of the few non sectarian MLAs in the DUP, I just might for her.

  • Mrazik

    Much more to come when the minutes for planning committee meetings for the past 25 years in Castlereagh are examined. Many business people and developers in Belfast were not surprised at all by the £50,000 being given so readily by developers. When Peter’s level of wealth for the past 20 years is compared to his income from political posts especially 10,15, 20 years ago when he didn’t hold many positions, there may be questions a la Haughey. FOLLOW THE MONEY . THERE’S PLENTY OF IT. the real story is not Iris it’s peter’s relationships with developers and anyone wanting to do business with the Council.
    This is old news but thanks to Spotlight for lifting the lid a bit.

    Posted by seamus friel on Jan 11, 2010 @ 05:33 PM

    And how would that help? Planning powers rest with the centralised DoE, not Castlereagh council who are only consultees. Councillors can do all the lobbying in the world (and they do) but the signature on a planning decision is a DoE one.

    Rumours always abound but there needs to be an eye-witness/whistle blower or a money trail to provide conclusive proof…

  • Not one of them mentioned the closure of the Arntz Belting factory in Derry today with the loss of 115 jobs. Shame on them all !!

  • Moderators

    Pilgrim, please stay within the site rules for commenting

  • Driftwood

    Posted by seamus friel on Jan 11, 2010 @ 05:33 PM

    Correcto.

    Castlereagh Council was Robinsons little fiefdom for decades. Any investigation would take aeons though as the trustees of the DUP’s Wewelburg castle are unlikely to volunteer its secrets.

    Fraser homes were buliding all over greenbelt land like they owned the Castlereagh Hills.

    That story may be told someday, but who is prepared to dig?

  • Driftwood

    *Wewelsburg*

    The investigation by Castlereagh Borough Council to be undertaken shortly needs independent supervision. Too many there know where the paper trail can be snuffed out.
    Ideally bringing in some heavies in the Met’s fraud squad might frighten the potential whistleblowers there.

  • Marcionite

    From my contacts in Fortnight magazine some time ago, Iris’ affairs were well known but only amongst journalists. I thought this odd, why the lack of dessemination? I was just a free lance web designer so didn’t want to bite the hand by asking awkward questions but this in itself is a point. Is the physical smallness leads to a cosiness if the coterie of political and editorial classes that perhaps doesn’t exist in larger jurisdictions?

    Another point, if P&J is devolved, will there be no other contentious matters that could lead to collapsing Stormont? Time we grew up here, other countries have crises from time to time without packing up the shop. Then again, other countries don’t have two Dads ie England and Eire to run and cry to. Perhaps the cost of collapsing the executive and bringing in the viceroys should be personally surcharges to those parties who decided to walk away

    Are there criteria for when will the peace process will cease to be called the peace process?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Driftwood:

    Fraser homes were buliding all over greenbelt land like they owned the Castlereagh Hills.

    That story may be told someday, but who is prepared to dig?

    I wish I got a quid for everyone who thought that councils had actual power over Planning. I’d be a millionaire.

  • Driftwood

    CS
    They have influence, big time. And partial control of certain aspects such as access rights, rating values and permission to expand.
    That’s why Carryduff has a higher population density than Rathcoole, not that i’d wish to live in either.
    As for Land and Property Services, they will smooth the path with vaseline (excuse the metaphor) on the right nod, faster than a rat up a Castlereagh spout. (Again excuse the metaphor).

  • OscarTheGrouch

    “faster than a rat up a Castlereagh spout” ahhh Jeees Driftwood – I’ll never get to sleep tonight now!!

  • Mrazik

    CS
    They have influence, big time. And partial control of certain aspects such as access rights, rating values and permission to expand.
    That’s why Carryduff has a higher population density than Rathcoole, not that i’d wish to live in either.

    Posted by Driftwood on Jan 11, 2010 @ 11:50 PM

    I’m not sure I totally understand what you mean. With access rights do you mean rights of way? If so, then they are a local authority function.

    By rating values do you mean business rates? This is again a LA function.

    Permission to expand. Do you mean an extension? If so, then this is in the gift of the Planning Service unless it is small and classed as permitted development so no approval is required (other than building control which is a local authority function).

    To see the “planning” functions that the new “super-councils” will have post RPA, check out this document (go to page 150): http://www.planningni.gov.uk/index/news/news_consultation/consultation_paper_final_200709_2.pdf

  • 0b101010

    I didn’t know the rule but, come on, a leave of absence to take the heat off? It wasn’t all that neat.

    These are largely rhetorical questions that we know the answers to, flawed or not, so bear with me:

    1. The role of First Minister is shared. There is a fulltime Deputy with equal status and, funnily enough, more experience in the office. What is the point of a shared and/or deputised role if not to maintain the office during short absences?

    By pulling another minister to plug the gap, we not only temporarily lose the ‘actual’ First Minister but also intentionally hobble another important Department. This is insane.

    Sectarian carve-up and party-allocations aside, if Northern Ireland had a mature system of government, the Deputy First Minister would be Acting First Minister right now with the Junior Ministers picking up the slack.

    I believe this is a serious constitutional point that needs to be resolved.

    2. I have to admit that I’m surprised that, of all parties, it was the swing-tying, shop-shutting fundies that would give Northern Ireland its first female First Minister. Her footwork on the Nolan Show t’other morning, in the midst of a crisis, shows she has the necessary attack-dog bullshitting/polticking skills to pull off leading the DUP for at least the time being.

    A similar question to #1 remains, though: what is the point of the Deputy Leader of the DUP if he isn’t going to (be allowed to) stand in when the Leader is unavailable? What’s logic are the DUP claiming for this?

    There is absolutely no way Robinson will ever claw back enough moral authority to lead his party through an election, let alone lead the country. It is very likely that Arlene Foster has been awarded both the leadership of the country and the DUP over the head of their own Deputy Leader.

    Was Nigel Dodds intentionally passed over or did he not feel confident enough to step up to the plate and into the Spotlight?

  • 0b101010

    (By leading the DUP, I mean defacto leadership in the public eye. Of course, Peter is still technically at the helm.)

  • bonaduche

    the story goes on and on and on
    meanwhile the health service crumbles
    120 jobs go in derry the dole ques get longer
    no policing and justice for the ordinary man
    policeman gets blown up
    corruption continues on our councils (across the province)
    old polple are too afraid to put the heating on
    our children are drinking too much
    we are drinking too much

    who cares about peter and virus we need help as a community not this media claptrap
    bonjour

  • granni trixie

    Ob101010:Although I see Arlene as capable as anyone, could be she was selected by PR/DUP as a a new ‘skin’ – ie she has not been under scrutiny for family dynasty patterns etc – the Dodds’ are likely to be perceived at this time as more of the same. I think that rivals for the leadership of the DUP/FM post have underestimated Arlene’s potential, overlooking that this move will put her streets ahead (albeit in a party on the wane).

    Pretty disgusted at some remarks about Arlenes ‘shoes’ in some media accounts and ofcourse true to form IR interpretation of ‘style’ says it all about her world view!