D-Day brought forward? Inquiry or Investigation? Will it matter?

After the First Minister gave an initial curt ‘No’ to Sinn Féin’s draft paper for an Independent investigation she has now given a more detailed and lukewarm response to the proposals:
“However, with the exception of the issue of stepping aside, we believe that the proposals provided to us by Sinn Fein on Thursday and published by them today provide a basis for taking an investigation forward.

“Officials have raised a number of technical issues in relation to the proposals, however there do not appear to us to be any insuperable obstacles to agreement being reached.”
However, the robust words of the Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir yesterday sum up the proposal that DUP cannot and will not address:
“We’ve served notice. The only way we can clear the impasse is for Arlene Foster to step aside.”
Sinn Féin are meeting in Belfast today (Saturday). Their motion is due to be debated in the Assembly on 16th January.
However with their Executive partners steadfastly against the stepping aside of the First Minister and the opposition parties attacking Sinn Féin’s proposal for an independent investigation rather than a public inquiry is there any point in putting it forward?
The parties know what the issue is and there is clearly no compromise that can be reached. D-Day may not be 16th January. It might come a lot sooner than we expected. 

  • mac tire

    Ken Reid looked even more concerned than usual on UTV tonight (is that possible?) and reckons this will not go to the 16th either.

    C’mon, folks, we all love Ken Reid.

  • articles

    Maybe given MM’s illness he needs time out out and they can both step down for four weeks ; a joint declaration concerning the duration, nothing more nothing less. An unsatisfactory compromise allowing AF to save face, and Martin to save the institutions but with nothing said out loud.

  • AntrimGael

    Smoke and mirrors folks. A deal IS being hatched and as I said on another thread if London and Dublin aren’t involved in behind the scenes negotiations I will walk on the Twelfth with a sash and bowler hat on. We are, as usual, wrapped up in our own wee bubble of self importance and cannot see the bigger picture. Brexit AND Sinn Fein’s 26 county ambitions are also at play here and in this year of British, Irish and EU negotiations there is NO way Stormont will be allowed to collapse.

  • AntrimGael

    Ken has been doing some wonderfully ‘even more concerned’ looks this past while…….but we all know he’s eventually going to say “I am not as concerned as I was…… as they are doing their usual last minute under the table deals……as they always do….come of folks…..wise up….the gravy train isn’t coming off the rails yet”.

  • Redstar

    SF will as always buckle. Dup will slap them down yet again, partly because SF will accept anything just to stay at Stormont and partly because they have nowhere else to go with all this.

    Add to that their vote has peaked and as middle aged career politicians firmly now part of the establishment , the corrupt talking shop on the hill is the natural place for them to see out their days

  • Gopher

    I imagine the DUP saying they don’t have a problem with SF’s terms of reference will have a similar effect as the famous “well done David”. If this is not a choreographed play SF just shot themselves in the foot.

  • Granni Trixie

    O no we don’t (but it’s not personal).

  • Granni Trixie

    Agree but would add that such a face saving way forward would diminish the symbolic value in AF standing down. She currently appears to be digging her heels in to signal she has no case to answer. This is not washing with the public who also suspect that she does not want to stand aside because she wants to remain in a position of influence.

  • grumpy oul man

    I suspect you could well be right however if they dont show that they have a pair then the punishment at the next election will be severe.

  • grumpy oul man

    Its not a gravy train AG, its a gravy boat, bigger and slower than a train!

  • Jag

    SF hasn’t demonstrated how this ad-hoc inquiry is better than a public inquiry under established legislation.

    If it is cheaper and quicker, why? What will it omit compared with a public inquiry? Won’t it actually take longer to put in place the legislative mechanisms to establish and run the inquiry?

    Why will it be cheaper? If the legislation establishing the inquiry is challenged or some witness refuses to attend or provide documentation, is the cost of a legal challenge included?

    It strikes many people as just ignorant for SF to dismiss a public inquiry, claiming, without support, it would cost “tens of millions” and would take “years”.

  • ted hagan

    It’s both depressing and shocking that when the spotlight turns on Justice Minister Claire Sugden in the midst of the crisis all she apparently appears to contribute is ‘I”m fed up with this place” to a reporter who appeared to be wearing kid gloves.

  • babyface finlayson

    It is hard to see how SF can back away from ‘no deal unless Arlene steps aside’ though. They have been pretty adamant about that.
    Unless they can wangle some kind of short suspension that will not trigger an election.
    Like what the DUP did over the McGuigan murder, with tactical resignations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The problem is that it’s actually a gravy “river” (filled with bobbing pork barrels). The habits of ignoring constitutionalism and finding law can simply be over-ruled with impunity which marked the path to partition and the workings of partition itself have encoded an virtual “river bed” through which self interest and contempt for the whole community flows.

  • Granni Trixie

    Like the Speaker?

  • Granni Trixie

    I agree but I’m not absolutely sure what precisely we ought to be expecting from the Jusitce Minister in practical terms.

  • Granni Trixie

    You have nailed it.

  • ted hagan

    It’s not Claire Sugden’s fault. It’s a tough position to be in, but it does say a lot about the Stormont set-up.

  • Gopher

    To put forward legislation to ensure 1.8 million people cant be “legally” (sic) robbed by 2000. I think the Magna Carta was much the same principle.

  • babyface finlayson

    well I was thinking of something that would cause a short suspension and I don’t know if the speaker resigning would be sufficient. How about DFM resigning? He will be going soon anyway by the look of things.

  • Redstar

    Maybe we need to consider WHY SF are so keen to avoid a proper inquiry at all costs

    We can understand their nervousness had this been an inquiry into SIF and their dirty linen with that scandal inc their support for Dee Stitt- but what is it they are keen to hide with RHI…….?

  • grumpy oul man

    Well may be not her fault and it is a tough place to be, but she took the job and with the office,limo and pay rise come duties.

  • Jag

    SF will claim that an adhoc inquiry will get to the bottom of the matter quicker and more cheaply than a public inquiry, but they haven’t provided anything by way of support for that position.

    There’s no reason whatsoever a public inquiry can’t run alongside other initiatives. The politicians could come back next week to agree legislation to stamp out abuse (stamping out abuse is legally possible, because the grants are based on proper usage). We could have inspections next weekend to check usage, we could have predicted energy usage for legitimate purposes, and we could have massive penalties in place for abuse (heating barns with the doors open). That can happen now regardless of type of probe.

    Tackling legitimate use of the RHI scheme will be more difficult because a contract’s a contract (someone needs to tell Simon Hamilton that, obviously the BelTel won’t). How about redesigning the initiative in line with GB’s and allowing businesses to transfer from the old initiative to the new initiative, with the added incentive their names would be published (and cherished) if they do agree to transfer. If they don’t agree to transfer, they risk being revealed in the future anyway along with the fact they didn’t transfer and people who know that such-and-such has a pellet boiler will be able to check if they are on the GB scheme or Arlene’s scheme. Initiatives like this could be debated and agreed regardless of the probe.

  • Skibo

    Could you point to a public inquiry that did not take years and cost a fortune?

  • Mirrorballman

    SF going for the “costs millions of pounds and takes years” excuse with RHI effectively buries any chance of public enquiries into Ballymurphy or Finucane ever happening.

  • Skibo

    I wouldn’t agree on interference from London and Dublin. I think both have much more important issues with Brexit. There is little street violence and no IRA bombs going off in London. We return to being the backwater and not making the National news.

  • Skibo

    Granni I would be surprised if the Speaker is even allowed to act on Jan 16th. He is a goner no mater what happens with RHI. I think SF have to find a half way house and get the inquiry up and running. MO’M needs to sit down with SH and resolve a financial package and get the budget in place. Another few weeks of no budget will result in protective notices being issued.

  • Skibo

    No it doesn’t as the money is sitting there from the Treasury. It has to be drawn down but cannot be done till there is agreement on dealing with the Past and Victims. Wonder would SF put these and the Irish language Act back on the table to get this issue resolved.

  • Jag

    Yes.

    Here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_inquiry#List_of_some_public_inquiries_in_the_UK

    This one took four months for example and cost £1.7m (30 days of RHI overspend).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutton_Inquiry

  • Skibo

    I don’t think they can this time. MO’M is a future mover and shaker and his statement previously will be hard to row back from. they will want to protect his personal character also. The proposal above with MMcG stepping down for six weeks removes AF could be the best way forward. They could re-address the issue in six weeks and if content in a repairing of relations he could return.
    That would surmise though that the DUP do not want to head to the polls themselves. They will have possibly 8 MLAs that may find their political career put on hold.

  • Skibo

    Jag I quote you the final words on a publication by Carol Harlow
    “Our expectations are highly contradictory: establishing facts, for example, may do little for accountability; learning lessons for the future may require a diminution in accountability; and making organisations accountable may, as the Justice/All Souls Committee concluded all those years ago, provide little catharsis for individual victims. What remains all too often at very great cost to the taxpayer is serving the political interests of government”
    https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2013/02/28/carol-harlow-what-price-inquiries/
    Problem I see happening is Arlene will be able to deflect any major accountability and in the end we may have spent at least a year and many millions on a fluff. Get on and get it over.
    Surely you are in agreement that AF will see this out no mater what. The only difference is her Teflon image has been damaged.
    What needs to be added to the inquiry is what should have happened and how do we prevent it happening again.
    The Treasury should have the over-arching power over schemes that involve public money as they hold the purse strings. Unfortunately during the worst excesses of the RHI the DUP were in control of both ministries.

  • articles

    Latest research shows Stormont has its own micro-climate and gravy cycle accessible by train, boat or bring your own.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “I will walk on the Twelfth with a sash and bowler hat on” No Probs AG I have got that arranged, we meet at 8.30am Stroud St – Sandy Row. Don’t forget to bring a Pack Lunch along with you ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Don’t kid yourself Skibo they are already working in the back ground hopefully both of them can put enough pressure on the officers of the DUP to have a rethink and wriggle a face saving grace and exercise out of the S— their leader has got them into !

  • Nevin

    “Sinn Féin are meeting in Belfast today (Saturday)” ..

    .. in the Felons’ Club! Does Gerry need a special pass, as an alleged non-felon, to get in? It just gets more and more surreal.

  • Jag

    Oh, I hear you Skibo and agree that an inquiry, no matter how well resourced and however long it takes, may not give desired results. But, it seems to be accepted as fact that we’ve lost £400m+, and there must be some attempt to get to the bottom of it if only to deter politicians in future from signing up to huge expense without proper consideration. My money is on a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 doing a far better job, possibly quicker than the SF probe and it needn’t necessarily cost more than the SF probe.

  • Granni Trixie

    The Hart Enquiry about to be published after 3 years work investigating institutional child abuse from 1922- 1995. I think there was a commitment early on, built on learning from similar enquiries, to try to avoid having to fork out to pay large legal bills. Not sure what this has cost but there must be learning from it for other enquiries.

  • grumpy oul man

    Im sorry Nevin you will have to explain what is surreal about SF having a meeting in the felons club.
    Now a FM who overseas a scheme that rips the taxpayer off to the tune of 1/2 billion pounds and refuses to step down now that is surreal and would not be tolerated anywhere else.
    Ps you dont have to be a felon to get in the door of the felons no more than you need to be a baker to get into the bakers.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Totally agree.

  • Skibo

    Jag even that fact is not actually correct. It is a potential loss of £400m+. It could be reduced if the Executive works pro-actively with the members of the scheme. That does not get away from the issue that it was badly set up.
    The biggest issue of an inquiry in Stormont is political interference. If that can be prevented then there should not be an issue.

  • Skibo

    Furthermore the chairman of the inquiry could not significantly criticise anyone without informing them first so they can arrange their defence. See Inquiry rules 2006.

  • Skibo

    With both parties at the extreme, should she stay or should she go now, how can there be a middle of the road without someone ending up with egg on their face?
    I don’t believe, the way they are coming out with statements, that SF can afford not to get Arlene to step aside .
    How can Arlene stand aside without looking weak?
    I don’t see how we get out of this cul-de-sac without an election or a six week period where MMcG steps down closing down the office temporarily.
    It would let her know she is not infallible and requires the support of SF to stay in the office of FM. A bit of humility and good manners is easy carried.

  • Skibo

    The Felons were set up by Joe Campbell and G Adams Snr. As G Adams Jr was a guest of HMG in Long Kesh during internment, I would have assumed he would have fitted the criteria, not that you have to have been an ex-prisoner to get in.

  • Skibo

    Granni we seem never to trust other people’s lessons and like to make our own mistakes!

  • Granni Trixie

    Well, I’m not so sure. Again,unfortunately I cannot ascertain through the internet what this Enquiry has cost so that we can have a rough idea as to the cost per year.

    But if anyone googles the Hart Enquiry they will access much learning. For example, just how important are the terms of the enquiry- determining what it covered. This enquiry Highlights the power of the person who sets the terms. The terms in this case for example do not cover “magdalen laundaries” and, for reasons they explain, they list those institutions they do cover.

    I think there is merit in making comparisons with the Hart Enquiry and what is currently proposed with regard to The heating scheme. In the former case there was easily obtained cross party support whereas with the latter there are disputes.

    By comparing what is proposed to completed enquiries there are definitely lessons to be learnt.

    Believe it or not I have been following the Hart Enquiry with particular interest because I spent formative years in one of the places which it investigated!

  • Kevin Breslin

    DUP already anticipate that will happen, and that’s the same DUP who didn’t anticipate they would need to react to the RHI problems after two warnings!

  • AntrimGael

    …….but think of the Brethren……will they walk with a Feeeennyan?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    You can carry the Banner with me !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Excellent suggestions Jag.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    AG may be the only one with a bowler! You don’t see too many bowlers “out” over the last few decades, I’ve noticed.

  • Jag

    In this regard the public inquiry is infinitely superior to SF’s off-the-cuff inquiry. This is Northern Ireland, that part of the UK with the most draconian libel laws. SF’s inquiry won’t be able to say boo to a goose without being sued to oblivion. At least the Inquiries Act 2005 allows criticism as long as due process is followed.

  • Nevin

    Thanks, Skibo, I presumed it was essentially a club for felons; I didn’t know that it’s remit had been extended to include former internees.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Seaan – There is a little joke with a jag about AG carrying the Banner. Two young catholic boys always helped my Grandfather out in the farming fields during the year and come near the 12th they would also help him pull his Lambeg Drum together. On the big day my grandfathers lodge would hire the 2 boys to carry the strings of the Banner every year, once they got older they would be hired to carry the banner. This was not an unusual thing for lodges to do and there was no rule as to who could or not be hired to perform such work and duties and get paid for it ! (Now before all the usual posters complain about ‘Croppies Lie Die S—) My grandfather and his lodge also made sure they got fed and watered with them at the field and finally when they finished off back in Carlton Street Orange Hall (Portadown) on the 12th Night. The three of them would use three brushes with poles to sing and dance around the floor performing the words of the old traditional orange folk song “Aghalee Heroes”. This was their Party Piece before my Grandfather would finish off the night with the traditional Irish folk song “The Girl from Keady Town” He loved them and they loved him and both of them took a lift of his coffin at his funeral. Afterwards they enjoyed telling us all the stories of them times and how they were the best times of their lives !

  • Nevin

    Felons Club yesterday; Sean South commemoration today; quite a republican paramilitary week-end for the SF President.

    I appreciate that you don’t have to be a member to get into a club. Some years ago, I encountered a ‘boisterous’ AOH group from New Jersey in the Causeway Hotel; they’d come from the Felons Club and were very much the worse for wear!

  • grumpy oul man

    Still waiting for the explanation for the surreal bit and what does a boisterous AOH group have to do with this, is your sectarian slip showing Nevin!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Used to drink in the old ” Belfast Bakers Social Club” in Ann Street many moons ago. Only place you could get a drink in Belfast on a Sunday Morning !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for the story, T.E. A lot of the rural Lodges have quite a different approach to their Catholic neighbours than the urban Lodges, I’ve found. My very Orange stepfather would have pretty much gone to any lengths to help his Catholic neighbours and when he was reprimanded for attending Catholic neighbours funerals, it was once only (he was well over six foot and built to match). Members of my own family, in common with quite a few families who had strong nineteenth century Liberal politics, did not forget the “Alternative Covenant” they signed before the Great war, and retained strong Home Rule roots, but their liberalism did not enforce any uniformity and as my mother was always a keen Unionist, as a Child I saw my share of “Twelfths”. One of the earliest memories was of the colours of a blanket on which I sat at a field. The photo I’ve inherited of this moment suggests I’m about eighteen months old.

    A number of my family served in the forces, and my uncle boasted of having learnt almost every “rebel” song at his mess dinners. I learnt “Take it Down from the Mast, Irish Traitors” from him before I was five, as a neat summation of the Irish approach (north and south, both camps) to politics, alongside “Lurgan Town” and “The Murder of the McBriars”. But by ten I’d all of Alice Milligan’s “When I was a little Girl” off by heart and have not looked back!

    http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/IRELAND/2002-12/1039303713

    Alice’s providential “fall of snow” was that at Christmas 1641, when George Rawden drove Sir PheIim O’Neill’s forces back from the deeply iced streets of Lisnagarvy after giving his horsemen greater grip on the ice with nails protruding from their horseshoes! The nurse in the poem had rather “modernised” the event.

  • Nevin

    gom, the AOH group were in the Felons Club and they weren’t members.

    Why are you tossing in the sectarian/partisan card? It’s not unusual for SF reps to seek my assistance or to jump to my defence.

    Gerry Adams is synonymous with surrealism. Come in, rubber duck.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    It is interesting about your uncle who served in the forces knowing so many rebel songs. This is not unusal. I was in Nelson’s Bar at Casemates Square in Gibraltar many moons ago with a group of guys from the Parachute Regiment. One of their party favourites was “A Nation Once Again” and a wee toast “To the little gentleman in the Black Velvet Waistcoat” !

  • grumpy oul man

    True that

  • grumpy oul man

    Still waiting for a explanation for the Surreal thing! and if you knew that you dont have to be a felon to get into the felons then why this
    “.. in the Felons’ Club! Does Gerry need a special pass, as an alleged non-felon, to get in? It just gets more and more surreal.”
    i think we are done here, try to keep on post it will make things go smoother!

  • grumpy oul man

    Blair Mayne was known for his rendering of rebel songs very popular in the original SAS owing to the amount of Paddies in the regiment!

  • grumpy oul man

    T.E i think it might be a education for myself to attend a 12th, would you care to extend that offer to myself!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    No Probs GOM give me a shout closer to the time !

  • grumpy oul man

    Consider it a date.

  • Nevin

    gom, calm down dearie.

  • grumpy oul man

    Nevin why dont you just come up with the explanation you were asked for or admit that there is none! you could of course keep up the patronizing nonsense but to be honest im not the one its making to look foolish!

  • Nevin

    gom, none of this stopped you playing the sectarian card. Is that surreal too?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My mother was in the WRAF and it was much the same there, although I recieved the oddest mix of Noel Coward, 1940s “Country and Western”, Irish songs of all shapes and lengths, and, with much drink taken, even light operatic attempts at Ivor Novello as lullabies. If you’ve followed Slugger for a few years you’ll know that, like the Paras you mention, when I am at Black Tie events, I too require glass of water near my wine glass! God Bless King Francis, hopefully “soon to reign over us….”

    Rebel songs were de-rigueur at most officer’s messes in Irish regiments it appears. My uncle was in the “Faughs” but claimed his mess was in no way unique. I miss him.

  • AntrimGael

    This is the dichotomy and I can understand why many Orange Order members, particularly rural ones, get pissed off when they are damned, damned and forever damned by large parts of the media and wider society. no matter what they do. I would defend until judgement day the right of Protestant people to be members of the Orange Order and hold to it’s core beliefs. However the Order has to ask itself if it’s religious and cultural or political and paramilitary?
    In rural parts of the North it seems that the Orange Order largely remains true to what it was originally but in Belfast and the more urban places it is still perceived, by Nationalists and the media, as joined at the hip with Loyalist paramilitaries and the facts back this up. Most of the bands who lead Orange parades in Belfast are affiliated to either the UDA or UVF and their uniforms and drums confirm that. There are Orange banners lauding Loyalist terrorists and one of the Shankill Butchers was photographed as a steward during a recent parade in West Belfast.
    The entire Belfast UVF leadership were also photographed by the Sunday world standing on the balcony at Clifton Street Orange Hall during a Republican parade in the New Lodge and on the 12th morning it is a fact that if you closed your eyes and threw a stone it would more than likely hit a Loyalist paramilitary.
    So T.E. while I understand your loyalty to the Orange Order it is others within your own community who are your own worst enemy and the reason why you get so much negative publicity and coverage. You cannot have your cake and eat it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The LOI had tremendous fluctuations in membership over the nineteenth century as legal approaches to membership of Secrret Societies and their processions in Ireland curtailed its activities. It only attained its present profile when it formed a pact with the Irish Conservatives to oppose the first (and subsequent) Home Rule Bill. Resistence to Home Rule became the backbone of Orangism at this time, and when the UUC began to create their own version of Irish Unionism after March 1905 many of its most strident advocates were Orangemen such as:

    “The Earl of Erne (Grand Master of Ireland and County Master of Fermanagh); Colonel Robert H. Wallace, D.L. (Deputy Grand Master), Walter H.H. Lyons, D.L. (Deputy Grand Master), Edward M. Archdale (Deputy Grand Master), Sir James Stronge (Deputy Grand Master and County Master of Armagh) and William J. Allen (Deputy Grand Master of Armagh).”

    This implicated the LOI directly with Unionism and has ensured that ever since Unionism has never been simply about the Union. While, like you, I have every concern for the continuity of the LOI as a cultural entity, as it remains in many rural areas, its direct involvement in other situations as a political pressure group to actively curtail the “Civil and Religious Liberties” of another portion of our community is quite another matter.

  • Katyusha

    I don’t think SF have any wish to a avoid a public inquiry. It could bear some nice fruit for them. I think there are two unrelated factors driving this course of action.

    a) they don’t want to be seen taking their lead from the SDLP and UUP
    b) it’s a useful bargaining chip to screw concessions from the DUP. I only hope such concessions have nothing to do with a reciprocal cover-up of some of SF’s dirty linen lying around in Stormont, or equally that they don’t give it up for an empty promise that the DUP will backtrack on, like what happened with the Irish Language Act.