An interesting story by Chris Woodhouse appears on page 10 of today’s Sunday Life.
MLAs stormed out of a secret session of a Stormont committee in a row over the investigation into links between Assembly members and loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson…
SDLP MLA Richie McPhillips and People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll both left the meeting in protest following a controversial vote.
The background is that the then Finance Committee Chair (and now Slugger contributor) Daithí McKay resigned over allegedly coaching Bryson prior to his giving evidence to the Finance Committee about the NAMA scandal.
Many, including some in the DUP, had called for there to be an investigation into those events, including into Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who was named in the Bryson/McKay communications.
The Standards and Privileges Committee had been due to ask the Commissioner for Standards, Douglas Bain, to investigate other members of the Finance Committee…
However, DUP and Sinn Fein members voted down the motion which provoked Mr McPhillips and Mr Carroll to walk out. Members from the Alliance Party, Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and People before Profit all voted in favour of the recommendation.
It seems that the issue has been buried. There is to be no investigation or referral by the Assembly into what occurred between any members of the Finance Committee, and any witnesses. Sinn Fein members had strongly objected when the focus shifted from McKay onto Ó Muilleoir, and now the DUP have voted alongside their Executive partners-in-government to stop any attempt to look further into what had occurred.
A spokesperson for Sinn Fein said: “The walkout by Richie McPhillips and Gerry Carroll from the Standards and Privileges Committee is no more than the usual empty stunt politics from parties with nothing to offer on any important[sic] or substantial issue.”
However, an SDLP spokesperson hit back at Sinn Fein, saying: “Those who subvert scrutiny are delaying the process of information recovery and ill serve the public interest.”
This all occurred in early December, and in light of recent events around RHI it’s intriguing to see the DUP support Sinn Fein in shuffling an issue off the table and under the rug, ending any hope of the calls for an investigation from non-Executive parties and the wider public.
The current Finance Committee, led by DUP Chair, Emma Pengelly MLA, called for the Finance Minister to step aside during an investigation. Where have we heard that recently!?
One does wonder though why the DUP would support Sinn Fein on this matter, given the rhetoric espoused by its members at the time …
Update – Jamie Bryson tweets in response to this blog post …
— Jamie Bryson (@JamieBrysonCPNI) January 8, 2017