Nelson McCausland gives his reaction to Spotlight at Social Development Committee (updated with audio)

After an exchange of late night/early morning text messages between the Social Development committee chair Alex Maskey and DSD Minister Nelson McCausland, the minister appeared before the commttee at 11am this morning.

The committee’s current membership is:

    BBC Democracy Live logo

  • Alliance- Judith Cochrane
  • DUP Paula Bradley, Sammy Douglas, Gregory Campbell, Pam Brown
  • Independent – David McClarty
  • SF – Alex Maskey (chair), Mickey Brady (deputy chair), Fra McCann
  • SDLP – Mark H Durkan
  • UUP – Michael Copeland

Background – I talked to the committee’s chair Alex Maskey in December 2011 about the role and power of the committees and his own approach to and relationship with the minister.

I’ll embed the video when this morning’s BBC Democracy Live recording of the minister’s hour-long response and further committee questioning is online.

In the meantime, you can listen to the DSD Minister’ robust defence of the allegations made about him (and his special advisor Stephen Brimstone) in the two parts below.

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  • John Ó Néill

    Alan, was Sammy Douglas listed as attending one of the meetings that Spotlight mentioned last night? Now (and I could be wrong) but I think it was the one where the reps were relisted as from Glass/Glazing industry and Fusion21 were included on list of attendees but said they were never present.

    A memo of the meeting was flashed up during the programme and I’m fairly sure Sammy was listed as an attendee.

  • D.A.

    From memory, yes, he was.

  • streetlegal

    Although the focus has rightly been on the actions of the disgraced DUP Minister McCausland, there must now be an urgent inquiry by the appropriate authority into the conduct of the DSD Permanent Secretary Will Haire to determine whether or not he has breached the terms of the NI Civil Service Code. The Office of the NI Civil Service Commissioners should be taking a very close look at this.

  • D.A.

    Since Brian Rowntree is now Chair of the NICSC, I imagine that’s unlikely. 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Nelson saying that the contracts were taken off Red Sky, and eventually opened to tender to ‘adjacent companies’…

  • Mick Fealty

    streetlegal,

    That detail is one that’s familiar to me from the NI Water story. Haire must investigate all such allegations even if they (as they did in the NI Water story) prove to be completely false…

    It IS distressing for anyone so falsely accused, but so far as I can tell, Haire is merely doing what he must…

  • Mick Fealty

    The key question for me is: did the DUP or the department benefit from that meeting with Turkingtons? If he did, his goose is cooked. If not, there is nothing else apparent in this story that will cause him trouble (on what we know at least).

  • Mick Fealty

    Lists a number of companies where errors where in 50% of the ir contracts…. Dig at the BBC saying if you are going to investigate you need to look are more than just the evidence that will give you own predetermined outcome…

  • D.A.

    He’s attempting to bore the Committee into submission it seems.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, he raises the issue of there not being a timeline on the programme… (I promise I’d not spoken to anyone remotely near the DUP before putting my comment together on the main documentary thread)…

  • William Markfelt

    ‘It IS distressing for anyone so falsely accused’

    It is indeed.

  • Chris Donnelly

    If not, there is nothing else apparent in this story that will cause him trouble

    Mick
    There is also the small matter of a party colleague publicly claiming that the Minister’s special advisor sought to influence her over the Red Sky contract decision, thereby abusing her role on the Housing Executive.

    Goose can be cooked on a number of appliances here, Mick….

  • JR

    I see Gregory Campbell is going down the discredit spotlight route rather than tackleing the issues raised.

  • cynic2

    Our MLAs demonstrating their incapability to focus on the real issues or forensically query Ministers> We just has 10 minutes on the merits of different types of window hinge

  • Chris Donnelly[12.26] The DUP has a long track record of browbeating and bullying tactics and they have a particular loathing of the NIHE as they know it’s existence is entirely due to unionist corruption of councils for decades.Is it true that McCausland has backtracked over his statement that the HE is to be abolished?

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    All I am saying is that unless there is enough scope for a judicial intervention, this is a PR fight, not a political one.

    McCausland’s presentation was detailed and comprehensive. SpAds should have been on notice that their status as ‘civilians’ is long gone from the McArdle/Kavanagh cases. We had Stephen McGlade’s (now departed to be the party’s chief AC enforcer in the Oireachtas) behaviour under watch in the NI Water story.

    Likewise Permanent Secretaries. This is only going to scale up over time, not because of any local factors, but because the expectation is that government as a whole must more accountable than it ever was in the past.

    But really, a DUP councillor appointed as one of four political appointees by the NIHC getting political pressure from their own party, who knew?

    Where I see a longer term problem is in the lack of day to day scrutiny of ministerial decisions. If McCausland had had to put in a performance like this when he presented his measures earlier, we might not have had the controversy in the first place.

    But with the Assembly effectively a client body of the Executive there was never any danger of that. For instance, how and where are we going to have a public debate on his proposals for what replaces the NIHE’s major functions?

  • How confident was Robinson that he wouldn’t be revealing anything new about employment equality rules when he complained the it was sectarian to seek out Red Sky because they had a mainly Protestant workforce? Why is that Harland and Wolff practice still going on?

  • Hopefully now that the Spotlight is up on iPlayer, Mick will get his Jotter out and pull together a timeline of the DSD/NIHE over the last few years.

    The Detail – and in particular Barry McCaffrey – should get a mention for the raft of stories they’ve put out on the subject – a selection below:

    22 Jun 2012 Is this the future of public housing in Northern Ireland?

    4 Sep 2012 Housing Executive officials ignored own warnings about contractors’ overcharging

    8 Jan 2013 End of an era as McCausland announces dismantling of NIHE

  • cynic2

    All we need now is a load of banana plants to put in our gardens. We have everything else

  • cynic2

    The key question for me is: did the DUP or the department benefit from that meeting with Turkingtons?

    Spot on Mick.

    Strangely this morning too, in response to Michael Copeland’s detailed exposition on reversing window hinges (the highlight of the ‘interrogation’ I thought) the Minister professed that he knew nothing about installing windows.

    Yet moments later he claimed that, after just one meeting with the Turkington Reps (whoops ….the Trade Federation) he suddenly became an expert on double glazing standards that at a stroke of the specifications pen he personally saved the Housing Executive £9m (or was it £14m – I was so shocked by his grasp of the brief that I missed the figure)

    Strangely too the Shinners were almost muted today. One has to ask why?

  • Chris Donnelly

    But really, a DUP councillor appointed as one of four political appointees by the NIHC getting political pressure from their own party, who knew?

    Mick
    It’s the nature of said political pressure that is significant, rendering this clearly more than just a PR battle.

    It is hard to interpret the ‘pressure’ placed upon the ‘political appointee’ as anything other than an attempt to bolster an east Belfast based firm on a sectarian calculation that the firm was ‘Protestant.’ That a DUP political appointee- and elected representative, no less- was reduced to tears on TV over the issue suggests that the fallout from this could be very ugly.
    What is clear is that this saga will have revived memories of the associated Irisgate scandals which greatly assisted Alliance in its endeavours to both win East Belfast and establish a firmer electoral foothold within the soft unionist electorate. Taken with the DUPs Flag protest antics & UUPs Maze/Unionist Forum lunge to the right, the real winners of this could be Alliance.

  • Morpheus

    “The key question for me is: did the DUP or the department benefit from that meeting with Turkingtons?”

    That should be widened to include their cronies

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Chris Donnelly: Taken with the DUPs Flag protest antics & UUPs Maze/Unionist Forum lunge to the right, the real winners of this could be Alliance.

    Opposing bigotry and the glorification of IRA drugs dealers, serial killers and child molesters at The Maze can hardly be described as a ‘lunge to the right’…

  • Jack2

    Great work Mick & Alan.
    Keep shining the spotlight into the dark corners of the hill !!

  • brian2013

    “The key question for me is: did the DUP or the department benefit from that meeting with Turkingtons? If he did, his goose is cooked. If not, there is nothing else apparent in this story that will cause him trouble (on what we know at least).”

    Good luck proving that, considering Turkingtons were party supporters regardless of a meeting with a Minister.

  • GavBelfast

    On a side-note (kinda) it’s been vintage Gregory Campbell today – at the committee and on the media.

    Few ‘do’ DUP quite like he does!

  • GavBelfast[5.28] Predictably enough Gregory and Robinson whinges about the picking on RED SKY as sectarian but silent on their discrimination in employment practice. No problem with that

  • ayeYerMa

    danielsmoran, where is your evidence of “discrimination” in employment practice? If a company is based in a dominantly Priotestant area then its employees are going to reflect that demographic.

  • tacapall

    Re the maze project UPC, have you any data on the unusual numbers of inmates from both republican and loyalist sides and prison officers who have been diagnosed with cancer related illnesses after serving long sentences or working for long periods in that particular place.

  • ayeYerMa

    If I were in the top brass of the DUP I’d be seriously considering expelling Ms. Palmer. She has been talking as if she had been elected as an independent candidate, rather than as standing on the party ticket (would she even have been elected otherwise?), and the BBC oddballs have rather strangely reported as if the concept of the party whip is some unusual thing. Given the BBC have gone on to use her naivety to create a documentary laden with little other than innuendo and hearsay then it’s a no-brainer.

    There have also been some other rather odd decisions taken recently where public bodies have shown little balance in the consideration for jobs in their decisions. Alex Attwood and John Lewis, as well as denying incinerators and the recent closure of a recycling centre come to mind (meanwhile it is OK to spoil the natural beauty of a UNESCO World Heritage site without another unneeded golf resort).

  • Sp12

    “and the BBC oddballs have rather strangely reported as if the concept of the party whip is some unusual thing. ”

    I think you are confusing a party whip, with someone who pressures people charged with overseeing the spending of public money to screw the taxpayer.
    Ms. Palmer came out the program looking very well, if she stood in my ward, I would vote for her.

  • Mick Fealty

    “screw the taxpayer.”

    Are we sure about that Sp?

  • Sp12

    “Are we sure about that Sp?”

    If your intention is to regift a company (albiet renamed) a contract that when they first had it, double charged the housing executive for shoddy work, charged for work that was never done on buildings which did not even exist, the bill for which is taken from the public purse. Then yes, you are attempting to screw the taxpayer.

    Bluejazz’s comment last night when this broke, that you deleted for being abusive, hit the nail on the head.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The DUP statement is interesting – it reads like an old school Peter Robinson kneejerk rush to the defensive. In any other part of the UK a minister dealing with this kind of accusation would lead to a minister being sacked or asked to resign. Here, our parties circle the wagons and go on the attack.

    It is also interesting how the DUP justify every incoming controversy and criticism on the basis that it is all about creating or preserving jobs and I can see some DUP apologists repeating this justification above. Aside from the fact that the DUP are not so gung ho about pursuing jobs when the impact is in their back yard (do Robinson and the other locals support more jobs at Belfast City Airport by expanding the runway and ending the ban on night flights there? Do their East and North Antrim representatives support creating jobs by strip-mining lignite in the Glens ?) the blasé way with which they justify putting accountability and due process to one side is actually quite frightening, especially for a party which lobbied against party political donations being made public.

    John Lewis is mentioned above. Robinson said that they were going to act to overturn it at Executive level. What happened to that plan ?

  • GavBelfast

    Interesting that Sinn Fein seem to be going easy on the DUP in general and McCausland in particular on the issue.

    Was going to say “strangely”, but it’s not really strange, is it?

  • Jack2

    Gav, ^^

    I do find it strange,that the greatest hope of the people in challenging the largest party in NI falls not to any of the other four main parties but with (I’m going to take a deep breath here)… Jim Allister.
    The man has the razor wit and sense to stay on the correct side of any legal threats , yet strip the whole episode bare.
    Its used to be Sinn Fein IRA pounded on us day by day in the media , making the two one in the same.
    The 2013 version is Sinn Fein DUP – they have made a very cosy cartel together.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jack,

    You’re right, Jim seems to enjoy being an MLA. That’s a tricky spot for a man who wants to pull the whole thing down.

  • son of sam

    I suspect I’m right in thinking that sadly Jim Allister is unlikely to be on the proposed Committee of Inquiry.His forensic skills woul be invaluable .

  • GavBelfast

    CS,

    And I daresay that he will want to be re-elected (assuming he doesn’t become an MEP again!).

    I’d say, as things stand, he’s a shoe-in next time-round.

    Jack,

    I really don’t find it strange at all, and not surprising either – just interesting.

    The DUP and Sinn Fein need and feed (-off) each-other.

    I don’t know which of a comparison with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Rangers and Celtic, or insects and dog-poo would be more appropriate ….

  • BluesJazz

    SF are blunted on this issue as they have the DUP by the balls over the hunger strike memorial at the Maze to shunt through.
    Robinson and Donaldson stand to personally gain by this SF win.
    Nelson McCausland’s car crash defensiveness on tv tonight was on a scale similar to Jeffrey Donaldson’s defence of a terror shrine/peace centre a week ago.
    £££££££

  • Comrade Stalin

    BluesJazz,

    I fear you are right. Nothing politically will come of this.

    There should of course be a police investigation. Do the police here have the swingers to question people, in the way the MET questioned the Prime Minister over phone hacking allegations ?

  • BluesJazz

    Doubt there will be a police investigation. SF and DUP are playing swings and roundabouts. Matt Baggott has an aversion to upsetting apple carts.

    Of course nothing political will come of it.

    The hunger strike memorial proceeds.

    Red Sky (under a new name) get to badly deal with NIHE maintenance.

    win-win I think it’s called for our elected representatives, and duly elected they were.

    Next voter turnout around 30% I’m guessing.

  • Comrade Stalin ‘do the police here have the swingers to question people…’ Not while Matt ‘anything for a quiet luife’ Baggott is in charge ‘in absentia’ as it were. The PF chairman Spence nailed it with his cowardice in face of UVF

  • redstar2011

    The fact that effectively no minister in the Executive can be sacked without the consent of his own party highlights what a sham the whole set up is.

    As a Republican, leaving aside the fact that its no more than a jobs for the boys expensive extension of British rule, the whole institution is completely corrupt and open to no proper accoutability whatsoever.

    No wonder a majority dont vote for it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A fascinating coincidence that suddenly on Friday morning we hear the news that in Nelson’s North Belfast constituency that suddenly, a few days before the 12th, the Twaddell residents have had a change of heart and have decided to ask the Orange Order to talk to the nationalist residents. There has been a cacophony of commentary from DUP representatives on Facebook and twitter etc in connection with this.

    This wouldn’t be the first time the DUP had attempted to distract the news agenda away from a damaging controversy.

    Having considered the situation a bit more it’s also fascinating to me about how the DUP have apparently learned no lessons from the events of 2009 and 2010 that contributed to the loss of Peter Robinson’s Westminster seat, namely that unionist voters no matter how loyal they are are not likely to support the DUP when there are allegations of corruption and chicanery hanging in the air. The Spotlight programme seems to show clear evidence of an undue relationship between DUP figures and Red Sky, and alleges that the DUP acted to protect those contractors from the impact of serious malfeasance in terms of charging practices and the standard of their workmanship. The DUP seem to have forgotten that DUP voters live in Housing Executive properties too and will have had to deal with similar substandard work.

    There is an old saying “if your enemy is making a mistake don’t interrupt him”. The DUP are currently making a serious mistake in attempting to protect both Nelson McCausland and Peter Robinson from the blowback that could result from this, and it’s going to be fun for some of us to sit back and watch what happens.. If a police investigation is launched there is a real risk that the position of both men will become untenable and this will make their current defensive stance seem highly hypocritical.

    Senior figures in the DUP are no doubt currently considering this possibility and may judge that replacement of the party leadership may be necessary to save the party from any long term damage. There are other reasons for disgruntlement at senior ranks within the DUP. I have heard it suggested that Sammy Wilson enjoys his job as finance ministry (that hardly seems like a secret – he openly revels in the role) – is he really happy about being bundled off to comparative obscurity in Westminster ? Sammy may well judge that now is the time for him and his ally Arlene Foster to make their move.

  • redstar2011

    Quite frankly I challenge ANY supporter of ANY of the parties in the Executive to challenge my assertion that its corrupt and unaccountable

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Executive is entirely accountable. We can vote them all out in 2016 if we want.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s pretty much it CS. That’s about the only way.

    We wanted a stable institution that could not rocked by the political manipulation of rivals. And that’s, for good or ill, is what we have.

    The DUP cannot fail to kill any inquiry they don’t like with a petition of concern because they have the numbers. If they don’t get their amendment passed, no doubt they will.

    But who would resist broadening the scope of any inquiry into this issue? You kill inquiries by narrowing their terms of reference not broadening them.

    Is there something here some people would rather was not made public?

    Regarding future accountability at elections, on what do you as a voter make your decisions if the reporting is partial, and inclined to draw lines beyond which it is not prepared to transgress?

    The words ‘pig’ and ‘poke’ come to mind…

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    The DUP will absolutely kill any Assembly inquiry with a PoC. The amendments have not been published on the Assembly website but I suspect when it is we will discover that it is a wrecking amendment.

    What I find fascinating is that the DUP judge it in their best interests to have a very public coverup, rather than taking the pain now by throwing the guilty party(ies) under a bus which is what would happen in Westminster. This is the mentality of people who have no fear of retribution from the electorate. They don’t think they need to sacrifice anyone. It is a judgment in the past that proved incorrect and it may be proven incorrect again, especially if the notion that the DUP are fundamentally corrupt begins to take root in the public mind.

  • Mick Fealty

    I agree this is one case where the very secrecy the party has sponsored is helping to undermine the DUP pleas of innocence…

    Who would you deem the guilty parties? I’m finding it hard to get beyond the NIHE…

    If I’m reading this correctly we still have a query over £18 mill out of a repair budget of £51.4 million on response maintenance expenditure and £94.2 million in planned maintenance expenditure during 2012-13 (ie, post Red Sky)… And it appears to be a quango somewhat out of control…

    What have they (the DUP) to lose if the terms are broadened? At the moment they are almost comically narrow…

  • Comrade Stalin

    We’ll have to see what the amendment actually is. My suspicion is that it will be one which effectively kills any prospect of this matter being properly investigated.

    The DUP’s moral authority to call for an investigation into corruption in the allocation of contract work has been significantly damaged ..

  • redstar2011

    Comrade Stalin (profile) 6 July 2013 at 4:46 pm
    The Executive is entirely accountable. We can vote them all out in 2016 if we want

    Lol

    That pretty much proves my point if the only time you can think of that theyre accountable is at the end of their term, ie they are not accountable during their tenure!!!!

    Its a fact that no minister an be sacked without the consent of their own party no atter what theyve done

  • Mick Fealty
  • SeaanUiNeill

    Alas, redstar2011, “We can vote them all out in 2016 if we want” (?)

    While I realise that you are being almost as despairing as myself with your posting, the real issue is that the DUP could sacrifice chickens (or adolescents) on air to whatever version of Jehovah they can agree over and still expect to net most of their current poll in the next election. The greater portion of the electorate that votes “Unionist” will continue to vote for them just as long as only “nice people” vote for the UUP. And the evangelicals that constitute their voting base are infiltrated by preachers of the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ (I guarantee that God will reward you by making you rich, and the deal is you give me 10%)!

    What more do these clowns need to do to discredit themselves?

    Yet another indication that taking a head count every five years or so is no more empowering for a people than simply putting their fate directly into the hands of the multi-national financial interests and cutting out the middle-man. It would perhaps prove a lot cheaper and less offensive in the long term. And the civil service might just become more efficient…..

    Or alternatively we could develop a “Movimento 5 stelle” (“páirtí cúig réalta”), and beak the mould……

  • Comrade Stalin

    redstar:

    That pretty much proves my point if the only time you can think of that theyre accountable is at the end of their term, ie they are not accountable during their tenure!!!!

    Let’s not be silly here. Ministers are accountable to the assembly and the committees which you will have seen in the footage of dear old Nelson being questioned by his committee.

    Of course, that idea does not work if like a bunch of idiots we troop back into the polling station and vote the same morons back in even if/when we see evidence of their corruption or incompetence in full view.

    Its a fact that no minister an be sacked without the consent of their own party no atter what theyve done

    That is not strictly correct, there are various provisions in Section 30 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 under which a minister can be excluded from office.

  • redstar2011

    You are wrong sir.

    When it comes down to it the ministers own party must agree to his removal.

    As far as being silly all of the country can see theres no accountability whatsoever, indeed recently we had the ” so what” quip from a senior Assembly member. Facts are facts most people do not vote and I reckon if you had a poll right now as to how the population views the accountability of the overpaid drones on the hill you would get a resounding negative outcome.

    They are career politicians, many of whom would struggle in a basic blue collar job ( ex cons and turkey farmers amongst them) being paid vast sums for doing sod all

  • Comrade Stalin

    When it comes down to it the ministers own party must agree to his removal.

    I said “not strictly”. The Assembly can, under section 30, exclude ministers from office. Attempts have been made to do so a couple of times and have been stopped by the Petition of Concern.

    As far as being silly all of the country can see theres no accountability whatsoever,

    Obviously we are working on different definitions of what the word “accountability” means. Can you give an example of what you mean by the word as occurs in other jurisdictions ?

    Facts are facts most people do not vote

    I’m not aware of voter turnout ever falling below 50% except perhaps at a by-election ?

    and I reckon if you had a poll right now as to how the population views the accountability of the overpaid drones on the hill you would get a resounding negative outcome.

    Is your poll defining what “accountability” means ?

    They are career politicians, many of whom would struggle in a basic blue collar job ( ex cons and turkey farmers amongst them) being paid vast sums for doing sod all

    Well I agree with that. The point is that people are supposed to use their vote wisely. We do not live in a technocracy.

  • redstar2011

    Fair enough.

    My point is that due to the POC its impossible ( as per a recent Mark Devenport piece) for a minister to be removed unless theres agreement with his own party

    In many constituencies turnout struggles to hit 50 % and the voter turnout is steadily declining.

  • Pigeon Toes

    It will play out exactly like the NIW story… Reputations of people with integrity ruined, and an expensive inquiry/cover-up…Lots of sound and fury and feck all will change…