#SpotlightNI: Dodgy deals and private societies which turn out not to be what they seem…

Here’s a conversation involving Peter Weir of the DUP and Francie Molloy both trying to find ways to defend the otherwise indefensive on Spotlight last night…

Now, I’m not a fan of expenses stories, but listening Peter Weir you would come to the conclusion that there was nothing to see here. Interestingly he cites a ‘public service’ argument conveniently ignoring the fact that the benefit which accrued in Ms Foster’s administration of her ‘free’ office accrued to her.

That means she is bang to rights. The Ballymena case was already reasonably well known. The rent was capped because the party (locally) was in a hurry to pay off the mortgage on the property over an expensively short term.

Step forward former Assembly speaker now mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy (and by the sounds of the Spotlight programme also the guy answering the phone in Cookstown (12.25), and who told the Spotlight researcher that the Tyrone Cultural Society which owned the premises there did “not really” hold dances and the like to lecturing the documentary maker for not checking to see that they do do dancing after all…

The larger question here is who is responsible for oversight of all this publicly purchased but very privately owned real estate… And how is charity law administered in Northern Ireland?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty