Question master Jim Allister? And should David McClarty be more like him?

Jim Allister interview screen grabThe TUV’s sole MLA Jim Allister has been getting a reputation for running a one-man opposition/scrutiny function up at Stormont. Martina Purdy summed up well the exchange in the Assembly chamber on 13 September between TUV leader Jim Allister, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín, and Assembly Speaker William Hay:

When Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin told the chamber, whimsically, that she and Mr Allister were “firm friends,” he accused her of misleading the house.

Mr Allister had just challenged the minister about the “appalling failure of financial management in relation to Irish language bodies”. He complained they had not published accounts between 2007 and 2011. These bodies he said were “useless and non-productive” and wondered whether she thought this kind of financial management undermined public confidence.

The Sinn Fein minister responded to his anger with humour. She suggested she had detected a statement rather than a question, before adding: “If the member wants to write to me I’m happy to answer his question. He actually writes a lot to me every day. Jim and I have become firm friends.

Mr Allister appealed to the speaker asking if it was in order for “a minister to mislead the house.” The TUV leader protested that he consistently writes to the permanent secretary of the department and not the minister.

But the speaker called order and took the minister’s part.

How often has Jim Allister written to the permanent secretary at DCAL?

Just twice! One in August, and another in September.

So what has earned the MLA his pen pal reputation? It’s probably the 24 questions he has tabled for the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure to answer, either in the three weekly Oral Answers to Questions in the Assembly, or in the Weekly Answers booklet.

In fact, Jim Allister – the self-styled one-man opposition who last week put out a press release calling on the UUP and SDLP to join him in opposition – nearly has more questions than a box of Trivial Pursuit.

Written NI Assembly Qs - per MLA

Individually he has asked more questions than the whole of the Alliance Party, and if you consider the number of questions per MLA that parties ask, he’s an order of magnitude ahead of the rest. (Disclaimer – I’m using figures supplied by the TUV that detail questions up to the morning of Wednesday 21/9, but having sanity checked them, I see no reason to doubt their accuracy.)

As well as being the most inquisitive, this is also likely to make him the most expensive MLA in terms of departmental time answering questions.

Even just looking through Hansard at the sessions featuring oral questions for Minister Carál Ní Chuilín (or ‘Cullen’ as the TUV tend to refer to her) and looking at the Weekly Answers Booklets you can pick out the themes that occupy Jim Allister’s cross-examination of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. (I’ve only included a small number of the minister’s answers.)

Special Advisors and Mary McArdle

The exchange above wasn’t the first time Jim Allister asked a non-question. Back on 7 June he ‘asked’:

Mr Allister: Having alienated much of the non-terrorist-supporting community by the malevolent appointment of a convicted murderer as her special adviser, why does the Minister now want to alienate further swathes of —

Mr Deputy Speaker: Can we have a question that is relevant?

Mr Allister: — the population of Northern Ireland by the promotion of a language that she uses as a political tool?

Ms Ní Chuilín: I did not detect a question, a LeasCheann Comhairle.

While business moved on to the next question, Jim Allister has returned to the theme of the appointment of Mary McArdle as Special Advisor on many occasions in questions that have received written answers.

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, in light of the hurt caused to the Travers family by the appointment as a Special Adviser of a person duly convicted of the murder of Mary Travers, whether she will revoke the appointment and apologise. (AQO 44/11-15)

The written questions listed below have also been asked posed and answered, though frankly they are not achieving much.

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how much her Department has spent on Special Advisers since May 2007, broken down by (i) salary; (ii) pension contributions; (iii) expenses; (iv) office costs; and (v) other costs. (AQW 962/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether she will terminate the employment of her Special Adviser in view of her refusal to co-operate with the Historical Enquiries Team’s investigation into the murder of Mary Travers. (AQW 1183/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether she or her Party selected Mary McArdle as her Special Adviser. (AQW 1420/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (i) how many candidates were considered for the post of Ministerial Special Adviser; (ii) what account was taken of any potential imbalance in religious background or gender in the pool from which she selected her Special Adviser; (iii) how wide was the trawl for candidates and how did she ensure that it was ‘broadly based’ as required by the Code of Practice on the Appointment of Special Advisers; and (iv) to publish the job description and person specification drawn up before the Special Adviser was appointed. (AQW 1476/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, pursuant to AQW 1420/11-15, why she claimed in a BBC Spotlight programme that “the party appointed myself and Mary McArdle to these positions” when the DFP Code of Practice on the Appointment of Special Advisers places the onus for the selection of a Special Adviser on the Minister and states that Ministers should make the selection on justifiable grounds, that Ministers have a personal responsibility and that Ministers should ensure that they consider a number of candidates. (AQW 1643/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, pursuant to AQW 1476/11-15, the answer to which failed to provide the information requested, to now provide details of (i) how many candidates were considered for the post of Ministerial Special Adviser; (ii) what account was taken of any potential imbalance in religious background or gender in the pool from which she selected her Special Adviser; (iii) how wide was the trawl for candidates and how did she ensure that it was ‘broadly based’ as required by the Code of Practice on the Appointment of Special Advisers; and (iv) to publish the job description and person specification drawn up before the Special Adviser was appointed. (AQW 1652/11-15)

Ministerial Driver

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (i) to detail the arrangements relating to the recruitment, status and payment of her ministerial driver; (ii) whether the arrangements differ from those that were in place prior to 1 April 2011; and (iii) if so, how the arrangements differ. (AQW 825/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín (The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure): In January 2011 the Executive agreed to transfer arrangements for the provision of ministerial cars and drivers along with associated budgets to the relevant departments. Prior to this DFP was responsible for providing ministerial transport to my predecessor. My Department has no involvement in the recruitment or other employment arrangements for my driver as he is not a civil service employee.

Consultants

A lot of departments have received questions from Jim Allister about the usage and cost of external consultants.

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to detail the cost to her Department of engaging external consultants in each financial year since May 2007. (AQW 157/11-15)

The answer amounts to: 2007-08 = £3,449,172; 2008-09 = £172,832; 2009-10 = £77,529; 2010-11 = £55,537 (provisional)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, pursuant to AQW 157/11-15, to detail (i) the subject matters on which the consultants were engaged; (ii) the consultants engaged; and (iii) the costs incurred on each project. (AQW 698/11-15)

Funding of DCAL arms-length bodies and community background of their staff

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how much funding her Department has allocated to Waterways Ireland in each year since 1998. (AQW 729/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how many staff are employed by Waterways Ireland in (i) Northern Ireland; and (ii) the Republic of Ireland. (AQW 1205/11-15)

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure for a breakdown of the community background of staff employed by Waterways Ireland. (AQW 1218/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: The total number of people working in Waterways Ireland is 386. There is no legal requirement for Waterways Ireland to gather community background information for the 289 staff working in Southern Ireland and as such this information is not available. There are 97 staff working for Waterways Ireland in the North. Of these five are employees of a recruitment agency and Waterways Ireland does not, therefore, have community information in relation to these. Of the remaining 92 the community background is Protestant 29; Catholic 59 and Others 4.

Mr Allister asked e Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how many staff are employed by Foras Na Gaeilge in (i) Northern Ireland; and (ii) the Republic of Ireland. (AQW 1274/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: There are seven members of staff employed by Foras na Gaeilge in its Belfast Office and 48 permanent and 11 temporary staff in its offices in Dublin, Gaoth Dobhair and Ráth Cairn in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how much funding her Department has allocated to (i) the Ulster-Scots Agency; and (ii) Foras Na Gaeilge, in each year since 1998. (AQW 1204/11-15)

Mr Allister asked e Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure how many staff are employed by the Ulster-Scots Agency in (i) Northern Ireland; and (ii) the Republic of Ireland. (AQW 1352/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: There are 13 permanent members of staff and 2 temporary members employed by the Ulster-Scots Agency in its Belfast Office. The Agency also employs 2 full time members of staff in its Raphoe Office in Donegal.

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure for a breakdown of the community background of staff employed by (i) the Ulster-Scots Agency; and (ii) Foras Na Gaeilge. (AQW 1353/11-15)

Ms Ní Chuilín: There is no legal requirement for either Foras na Gaeilge or the Ulster-Scots Agency to gather community background information for the staff working in their offices based in the South and as such this information is not available. The breakdown of community background for the staff working in the Belfast offices of both Agencies is shown in the table below:

Foras na Gaeilge = 6 Catholic, 1 Protestant, 0 Other, 7 Permanent staff

Ulster-Scots Agency = 2 Catholic, 12 Protestant, 1 Other, 15 Permanent staff

Fishing

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (i) for her assessment of (a) the state of trout and salmon stocks in the River Maine system; (b) the adequacy of the safeguards which currently exist for the migratory run of salmon and trout; and (c) how the stock levels compare to the levels ten years ago; (ii) how many bailiffs are employed on the River Maine system; (iii) whether the bailiffs operate on a call-out system or on the basis of routine river inspections; and (iv) to compare the number of bailiffs currently employed to the number employed ten years ago and their modus operandi.

Irish language gets a mention too …

On 28 June he ask the DCAL minister who she wanted “to waste valuable resources on promoting a language that will disadvantage young people in seeking employment in these hard economic times, instead of better equipping them to be more proficient in English?”

Football NI/RoI players

Mr Allister asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether she has made, or intends to make, any represenatations to the relevant authorities about people born in Northern Ireland playing football for the Republic of Ireland. (AQW 576/11-15)

Is Jim Allister value for money? Certainly his arrival in the Assembly has upped the level of scrutiny. Whether the scrutiny is shiny a torch in the direction I’d most like it to is far from certain.

But from his vantage point at the back of the chamber, his position in committees (Committee for Employment and Learning and Committee on Procedures) and standing in front of a microphone in the Great Hall, he is certainly flashing a light into some areas that parties participating in the Executive are more shy to look.

Maybe the question should be – with a mere five written questions posed since May – why can’t David McClarty be more like Jim Allister?

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  • thethoughtfulone

    The Paisleys can’t bring themselves to admit it (or probably see it in the first place!) but Mr Alister is continuing the work carried out by the Rev Ian to a much higher standard than Ian Jnr ever has or looks as if he ever will.

    The Reverend earned the reputation of being the man to get things done in North Antrim, and quite rightly so, he was always a man who was in the system but not part of the system. I voted for Jim with the hope of getting that sort of representation back again, as despite all the promises about how things would improve with our own government as opposed to direct rule, we slide further and further back each year as a viable region of the UK (or anywhere I s’pose). With a very few exceptions still demonstrating what used to be good about Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland is rapidly becoming a basket case.

    Can someone like Jim change it?, …………………….doubtful but at least he’s giving it a go. Just a pity there weren’t enough people in the north west voted for Eamon McCann as well, now him and Jim would have been a mighty combination!

  • “he is certainly flashing a light into some areas that parties participating in the Executive are more shy to look.”

    Alan, did you read the press release about OFMDFM SpAds? It seems there was a strong reluctance by the Executive to discuss the matter in the chamber and by the Speaker to address the issues raised.

    “This high-handed and unilateral act was a flagrant abuse of power and due process. There is nothing in Standing Orders or Business Office guidance which provides for such interference. Yet it happened and, sadly, the Speaker meekly washed his hands of it.

    “The surplus and high salaries of Special Advisers, along with the terrorist convictions of some, make SPADS one of the scandals of misgovernment at Stormont. The executive does everything to avoid scrutiny of the issue, with farcical written replies and now running away from the issue getting onto the floor of the House. Their behaviour in itself shows how unsavoury an issue this is.”

    There’s also the wider issue of the pressure that may be brought to bear on senior civil servants by the presence of those with a Mafia-style tendency whether they be Ministers, SpAds or minders. A friend of a friend of mine was bounced back into his office in the first bout of devolution by a minder. The explanation given for such corridor clearance: “The Minister’s coming”.

  • iluvni

    Did he ever get an answer on whether a ”principal deputy Speaker’ will cost the public purse more than a ‘deputy speaker”?
    Sammy Wilson never answered that one.

  • Another Q&A on SpAds has just gone online:

    Mr Allister asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel, given the constraints on public sector pay, why he decided on 18 July 2011, to increase the upper salary limit for Band B Special Advisers to £90,000.

    (AQO 323/11-15)

    Mr Wilson: As the Minister with responsibility for pay matters in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, I took the decision to increase the upper limit of the Special Advisers’ pay band B from £82,531 to £90,000 in recognition of the requirement to set pay bands at a level that will ensure that individuals with the requisite skills and abilities are attracted to and retained in these key posts.

    I wonder what salaries our current SpAds had prior to climbing aboard the SpAd gravy train.

  • ranger1640

    Well done Jim, a bacon of light in a murky place, keep up the good work.

    You would have thought that the UUP, SDLP an Alliance would all be asking these searching questions.

  • OneNI

    Thanks ffor that Nevin – question on the huge pay increase for Spads that was covered by the media? Can someone point me to Ken Reids, Mark Devenports or Liam Clarke’s report on it?

  • thoughtfulone…..’N. Ireland is fast becoming a basket case’

    Funny that in the assembly election campaign jim Allister was fond opf dismissing the RoI as a basket case economy, but for the sake of his blood pressure he would be well advvised to avoid the Wall st journal which has marvelled at the the Republic’ s economic growth rate outstrpping the rest of the EU in spite of the austerity mesures. That must be a bitter pill for him to swallow.

  • OneNI,

    Can someone point me to Ken Reids, Mark Devenports or Liam Clarke’s report on it?

    Stop it- you might rock the consensual boat.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “Funny that in the assembly election campaign jim Allister was fond opf dismissing the RoI as a basket case economy, but for the sake of his blood pressure he would be well advvised to avoid the Wall st journal which has marvelled at the the Republic’ s economic growth rate outstrpping the rest of the EU in spite of the austerity mesures. That must be a bitter pill for him to swallow.”

    And your point relative to Northern Ireland (which I was referring to) is………………………………………………..????

  • > With a mere five written questions posed since May – why can’t David McClarty be more like Jim Allister?

    I repose the question at the end of the post.

  • OneNI, the News Letter published an article on these changes back in August.

  • JR

    Untill Mr Allister lays off the Irish Language he will be seen as nothing but a sectarian bigot by most of the people in Northern Ireland. If he wants to raise the issue of financial support for minority languages in Northern Ireland he seems the other “language” recieving matching funds to Irish.

  • The Raven

    “With a mere five written questions posed since May – why can’t David McClarty be more like Jim Allister?

    I repose the question at the end of the post.”

    Maybe because that’s not the sort of person David McClarty is? Maybe he doesn’t want to be? Maybe he doesn’t see himself in that role? Perhaps he gets things done by being the nice guy? Maybe he has other things to concentrate on rather than the Irish Language and SPAD pay?

    Maybe you could ask him in person – I realise that reads as a snide remark, but it genuinely isn’t – because he’s an awfully affable chap and I’m sure would answer you directly…

  • JR

    Sorry, that should read he seems not to mind the other …

  • The OFMDFM has until October 10 to provide a written answer to this question on SpAds from JA:

    To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister what specialist expertise do the Special Advisers appointed to their Department bring to their office. (AQW 2445/11-15)

    If we elected MLAs with some measure of competence could Ministers dispense with the services of SpAds? Should Ministers pay for these SpAds out of their own pockets rather than raid the public purse?

  • A bleeding heart

    I find Jim Allister’s questions both interesting and irrelevant, interesting as some have been highlighted in this article and irrelevant in terms of asking continually about the community background of staff or
    Mr J Allister (North Antrim)
    To ask the Minister of Finance and Personnel how many civil partnerships, to date, have been (i) registered; and (ii) dissolved.
    while part of me worries that they may be dangerous as in
    To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister whether they can offer an assurance that in their lobbying for a PEACE IV Programme they have not, and will not, advocate its extension to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender interests. AQW 1608/11-15

    Maybe Jim should ask;
    To ask the Minister of Finance and personnel (i) to date how much have my questions cost to answer (11) have the made any difference (iii) have they provided value for money (iii) could have been answered with a Google search?

    I know that is flippant but Jim is not the only MLA who I think missuses MLA questions but he is the one we are talking about on this thread.

  • sonofstrongbow

    I believe Mr Allister has asked questions on Ulster Scots funding (there is one referred to in Alan in Belfast’s piece). Interesting to judge Mr Allister as a “sectarian bigot” whilst employing a calculated insult to those who support Ulster Scots, I’m not one by the way, by referring to it in inverted commas.

    Stormont is a nasty little compromise and it is little wonder that patronage is a byproduct with politicians looking after their own; funded by the taxpayer of course.

    It is also no surprise that local journalists leave it all well alone. No boat-rockers need apply to the local media. The fury of Sinn Fein at the questioning by the Southern media of MMcG brings into sharp relief that Northern Ireland politicians are too used to a Three-Monkeys local approach.

  • thethoughtfulone. I agree that the situation ids regressing in NI and Stormont is a pretty blunt intstrument to attempt to deal with that. The reason this was always inevitable is that Stormont wasn’t set up to improve life here but simply to keep the troublesome local politicos occupied. This is an economic dead zone and Sammy Wilson has effectively admitted that he agree by postponing the corp tax reduction. The block grant would be severely cut into with not a single job guaranteed by the tax cut. The worst of both worlds.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “he will be seen as nothing but a sectarian bigot by most of the people in Northern Ireland. ”

    And that view is going to be spun to death by those in government, on both sides, who wish he would stop asking the questions.

    Personally I think his work rate puts just about every other MLA that we have to shame.

  • Dewi

    If I read that right the Ulster Scots Agency employs 15 full time staff and Foras Na Gaeilge 7- strange.

  • JR

    SOS,
    I am aware he asked a question on Ulster Scots, I am not aware he ever criticised it, certainly not to the same extent he has consistantly put down the Irish Language.

    I used “Language” for Ulster scots because of the ongoing ambiguity as to whether it is or is not a language.

  • Dewi – The figures were only for the Belfast offices.

    There are seven members of staff employed by Foras na Gaeilge in its Belfast Office and 48 permanent and 11 temporary staff in its offices in Dublin, Gaoth Dobhair and Ráth Cairn in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Dewi

    Thabk you Alan.

  • foyle observer

    Cracker of a photo.

  • photo is just a still frame from the TUV’s manifesto launch in April – chosen to be far from the worst moment

  • thethoughtfulone

    I think the photo is a good representation.

    Gurny, crabbit, picky, humourless, almost machine-like in demeanour.

    In other words, exactly the sort of guy you’d want fighting your corner for you against “the system”.

  • pauluk

    His questions at least give civil servants a little bit more work to do. 😉

  • I am no fan of Jim Allister, but it seems to me that he is doing what every politician should be doing – challenging those in power to explain their actions and justify their expenditure.

    Bleeding heart writes that Allister should “.. ask the Minister of Finance and personnel (i) to date how much have my questions cost to answer (11) have the made any difference (iii) have they provided value for money (iii) could have been answered with a Google search?” Where is the cost? Aren’t there civil servants who are employed to provide such information? Do we really want our politicians to stop asking questions, in order to save a few pounds?

    Allister’s questions on the casual largesse now being spent on an army of SpAds at Stormont are the sort of questions that the ordinary citizen wants to have asked. We are running down our Health Service for lack of funds, while more and more Special Advisers are being taken on at inflated salaries. Keep at it, Jim!

  • Neil

    I agree with most of what you said there Democrat, I’m no fan of Jim’s but at least he’ll keep the rest of them a bit more honest,

    The only bone I’d pick, and unfortunately despite a swift google search I cannot find the article in question, is that a question actually costs quite a bit to answer. One of our politicians, and again I can’t remember which, complained a couple of years back about pointless questions being asked which costs a couple of thousand pounds each to answer as the questions have to go through a defined process involving fact checking, approval and whatever else. If that’s the case Jim’s 229 questions could come to nearly half a million pounds.

    That said there’s no way to filter questions so only the ‘good’ questions come through, so all of them will have to be answered, though if it’s simply a sectarian points scoring exercise (perish the thought) it’s a bit of a waste of money, especially if as suggested, Google can provide the answers.

  • andnowwhat

    Seems that Willy Hay is kicking back at Seamus, even going on to say he wants to be a martyr

  • Neil, presumably Stormont and Westminster costs would be of a similar order. Here’s a Westminster answer circa 2010:

    “What is the cost of answering a parliamentary question?

    Oral question costs £425 on average Written question costs £154 on average

    Perhaps someone could ask why Stormont hasn’t got a similar FAQs webpage 🙂

    The ubiquitous Google has exposed incompetence as well as the removal of online documents that reveral inconvenient truths 😉

  • OOPS ‘reveral’ should be ‘reveal’ 🙁

  • andnowwhat

    Forgot to add a link

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-15077391

    Hay says that he will not call Seamus to speak for the next few weeks or so

  • galloglaigh

    andnowwhat

    Good article, and Jim’s reputation as a shit stirrer has put him in this situation.

    I would take exception to you calling him Seamus. His name is Jim (James), and while Seamus is an Irish conversion of James, it doesn’t work the other way around. The name Seamus has no Irish origin.

  • Some snippets from today’s exchange:

    Speaker: ” .. First, I refer Members to Standing Order 17(4), which requires the Business Committee to consult the Speaker about general arrangements for debates, including the order of speaking and the number of speakers in any debate in the Assembly, as mentioned in Standing Order 17(5). The arrangements for the order of speaking and for the number of speakers in any debate were agreed by the Business Committee some time ago. ..

    Let me say that, from here on in, any Member who continually abuses Standing Orders will be dealt with, and any Member who continually challenges the authority of the Chair will equally be dealt with. What I mean by “dealt with” is that those Members will not be called to speak for some time in any debate in the Chamber.”

  • iluvni

    So, the Speaker has taken the hump that some members appear very keen to take part in debates in the Chamber, and when they voice their displeasure he threatens to silence them out of spite?

    What a buffoon.

  • thethoughtfulone

    Oh dear, looks like Mr McDevitt is starting to ask some difficult questions as well, the young scallywag.

    He might be next to be silenced!

  • Neil

    Nevin,

    going by those stats Jim has spent (230 x 154) 35,420 pounds expressing his outrage at, among other things, the 90k wage bill of one SpAd. You see the conundrum? If Jim wasn’t there he would, over the year, save the majority of that wage bill.

    As I’ve said before his pertinent questions have been interesting, and I reckon he adds value. But a lot of his questions appear to be an attempt to grind his axe over issues that he could probably source the answers to himself.

  • andnowwhat

    galloglaigh

    I call Allister by that name because of the deliberate issue he has with the Irish names of MLAs which is either plain bad manners or childishness.

    He has been censured for cheap point making and time wasting. He can be very funny and in fairness, would be well behind Sammy Wilson in the amount of time he spends doing stand up in the chamber

  • Neil, I doubt if Jim’s single axe is sharp enough or heavy enough to expose the misgovernance that takes place here. If you’re referring to McArdle his objection AFAIK had nothing to do with cost.

  • I wonder what the Speaker’s reaction would have been if he’d used the Carálesque epithet, gobshite!

    Does the current make-up of the Business Committee ensure that the DUP/SF axis controls the business of the House – – in addition to its control of the Executive?

  • Neil

    I wonder what the Speaker’s reaction would have been if he’d used the Carálesque epithet, gobshite!

    If he’d tweeted it, then I’d imagine the speaker wouldn’t have reacted at all.

    Does the current make-up of the Business Committee ensure that the DUP/SF axis controls the business of the House – – in addition to its control of the Executive?

    Am I missing something? The SF/DUP axis appear to make up less than 50% of the people on the committee.

  • There’s more 🙂

    Mr Speaker: Order. I must say that the Member really does push the barriers. I have said in this House for some time — [Interruption.] I have said in this House for some time that questions sometimes grow legs. Quite obviously, that is what the Member intends this morning. [Interruption.]

    Order. I ask the Member to take his seat. I will now move on. [Interruption]. Order. The Member needs to learn the lesson that there are protocols, Standing Orders and conventions of this House that relate to him, as they do to any other Member.

    Mr Allister: Only to me.

    Mr Speaker: Order. I now say to the Member directly that the Member will not be called in any debate in this House for some time.

    Mr Allister: You are doing your master’s bidding.

    Mr Speaker: Order.

    Mr Allister: Your peerage is safe.

    Mr Speaker: Order. The Member will not be called to speak in this House for some time.

    Mr Allister: This House is a disgrace to democracy.

    Mr Speaker: Order. Take your seat and sit down.

    Mr Allister: This House is a disgrace to basic democracy. There is a voice, and it will be heard whether you, Mr Speaker, like it or not.

    Mr Speaker: Order. I know what the Member is trying to do: he is almost trying to be a martyr. I know exactly what the Member is trying to do. The Member should take his seat and be quiet. We will now move on.

    I wonder if the interventions by Allister, McDevitt and McCarthy were related to this:

    Mr Speaker: Order. The Member must bring his remarks to a close.

    The Business Committee has arranged to meet immediately upon the lunchtime suspension. I propose, therefore, by leave of the Assembly, to suspend the sitting until 2.00 pm, when the next item of business will be Question Time.

    The sitting was suspended at 12.33 pm.

  • “Am I missing something?”

    I may have got it wrong, Neil, but DUP + SF have five out of the ten positions on the Business Committee and the DUP chairman may well have a casting vote. Also, Alliance is beholden to the axis for one of its ministerial seats.

  • galloglaigh

    andwhatnow

    plain bad manners or childishness

    Fair point, he is like a spoilt child in fairness. Not only in his questioning, but his demeanor in general.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    I think that by calling Jim Allister, it is sinking to his level and that he will use it to justify his sectarianism.

  • The kerfuffle continued this afternoon with the Principal Deputy Speaker taking what appears to be a new tack 🙂

    Mr Allister: Will the Member give way?

    Mrs Dobson: Yes, I will.

    Mr Allister: The Member referred to some of the difficulties that rural businesses face. One of the greatest difficulties in getting a business going and keeping it going is the public knowing that it is there, which puts focus directly on the issue of signage. Does the Member agree that there was a missed opportunity in the drafting of PPS 21 to deal with that issue, and, if not, an addendum or revision of PPS 17 is an imperative that cannot wait much longer?

    Mr Principal Deputy Speaker: Order. The Member should resume his seat. As was stated by the Speaker earlier, the Member is not to be heard, and other Members should remember that when they are giving way.

    Mr Allister: On a point of order. The ruling of the Speaker was that I was not to be called.

    Mr Principal Deputy Speaker: Order. The Member should resume his seat.

    Mr Allister: The ruling of the Speaker was that I was not to be called.

    Mr Principal Deputy Speaker: Order. The Member should resume his seat. Mrs Dobson has the Floor.

    Mrs Dobson: Thank you, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. I have finished.

    Did the PDS wait for a tweet before he intervened? 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin

    It does have to be said that Jim Allister has landed quite a few square punches on the Executive.

    However, there is a line between acting as an opposition and repeatedly hectoring the administration. Writing a zillion letters about the costs of the Irish language or the evils of Sinn Féin and their SpAds being in government, over and over again, can hardly be said to be in the public interest. I can’t see how anyone can be anything other than bored hearing the same recycled rants.

    Allister did himself a disservice today with that petulant behaviour in the Assembly. The Speaker has, in fact, been very lenient with Allister and has given multiple warnings since last May regarding his conduct in the chamber. Had Allister been behaving the way he did in Westminster there is no question that the Speaker would have stopped calling him a long time ago.

  • BluesJazz

    The ‘costs’ of asking a question are dubious as Stormont has a fixed labour cost in its high number of (highly paid) researchers and advisers (usually family members). Jim Allister’s political outlook may be viewed as archaic by many (including myself), but he has a genuine nose for flushing out hypocrisy and greed.
    The cosy consensual gravy train riders on all sides clearly “don’t like it up ’em”.
    Fair play to the guy for doing what no journalist would dare and poke under the stone.
    The speaker has shown himself to be a pathetic puppet.

  • “If he’d tweeted it”

    I was thinking of the use of language, not the medium of transmission, Neil. I’ve just had a quick browse through some of the other contributions today and noted this more potent use of the vernacular by Barry McElduff:

    If you are not allowed to put up any structure that is likely to act as a visual distraction for drivers, what the hell are the balls on the Falls about?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Of course there are costs to asking a question. The workload of answering questions may mean that other tasks are made to wait. At the same time, we shouldn’t encourage the idea that accountable democracy is too expensive.

    Nonetheless, what is questionable is the idea of whether or not Jim really is making life difficult for anyone. We already know that SpAds (whether SF or not) are expensive and his questions aren’t going to change anything. Like I said, constant hectoring of ministers with similar questions and with the same troglodytic agenda all the time don’t qualify as accountability.

  • BluesJazz

    “The workload of answering questions may mean that other tasks are made to wait.”

    What other tasks? Huge numbers of civil servants are employed in a tiny regional administration. Let’s compare -and benchmark-our civil service with similar, say Gibraltar (17 MP’s and has an official Opposition), or the Isle of Man.

    Their costs are nowhere near the placebo assembly.

    Does Wales have an ‘Opposition’? or is our little subsidised sectarianised statelet unique within Europe?

  • iluvni

    Have the UUP sat mute in all this?

  • slappymcgroundout
  • Comrade Stalin

    What other tasks? Huge numbers of civil servants …

    I know there are a lot of civil servants, but the point still stands. I doubt they keep many of them around just to answer questions.

    Slappy, if you read Hansard you will see that Allister was censured for challenging the authority of the Speaker, not because he made comments about McGuinness. These are old-style Paisleyite tricks and I don’t think people are interested in them anymore.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Uh, Stalin, I simply linked to the vid and did not interpose any statement of mine. The title is UTV’s not mine, so if you’ve a beef speak with UTV.

  • “Like I said”

    CS, Jim Allister’s predilections may well ruffle some of our prejudices but our governance processes certainly need to be subjected to greater scrutiny and our elected representatives could make greater use of the services of investigative journalists and bloggers.

    Here are two areas of concern which I and some friends have been looking at recently. In one case a developer is applying legal pressure to a Council to achieve an outcome which places the private above the public interest and in the other the erection of fencing which takes away from the beauty of one of our important tourism destinations.