The Stormont administration in Belfast has been accused of acting irresponsibly after it was confirmed that a DUP Minister will not be sanctioned despite the findings of an official report which supported allegations that he deliberately deceived the Assembly.
Nelson McCausland has declined to appear in public or speak to the media about a Stormont committee report which found he deliberately misled fellow assembly members.
The report concluded that McCausland had intentionally claimed to have met representatives from the Glass and Glazing Federation regarding the cost of construction contracts. The meeting was in fact with a single company -- one which happens to be long-time supporters of the DUP as well as donors to the party.
In addition to the damning findings against the minister, the committee also voiced concern about the “inaction of senior civil servants” in the Department of Social Development who failed to challenge Mr McCausland when they knew he was not telling the truth.
SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly repeated her call for the minister to reconsider his position. She said Mr McCausland’s failure to resign highlighted the “poor standards of democracy” in the north.
“All the feedback I’m hearing is that the minister should go,” she said. “I won’t hold my breath, however, because we rarely see the DUP taking responsibility for their actions.”
Committee chairman, Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey, did not call for the minister’s head but said he had “serious questions to answer”.
“All parties with the exception of the DUP took the view, based on the extensive evidence in the report, that the minister deliberately misled the committee,” he said.
“Not only was the committee misled but there was a concerted effort to change the record of the meeting.”
McCausland was said to be unavailable due to a holiday to Britain. When asked if he intended to resign, a DUP spokesman replied: “No.”
The DUP’s Finance Minister Sammy Wilson dismissed the committee report as a “discredited political witch-hunt and a waste of time and money”.
Meanwhile, the First and Deputy First Ministers have also been accused of behaving irresponsibly by their political opponents after an agreement on ten policy areas fell short of its goals, two years after it was issued.
The joint statement by DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness in July 2012 was styled as breakthrough in relations between the leaders and was intended to signal a major step forward in politics at Stormont.
With both Ministers having left Stormont for the summer recess, a brief update was issued this week by their joint office. And in the intervening 24 months, the pledges remain mostly unfulfilled, particularly in regard to welfare, education, structures of government and information services.
The SDLP’s Alex Attwood, a former environment minister, said the two largest Stormont parties were “electorally driven”.
“It takes a critical incident like the recent racist attacks to compel the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister to make decisions and, even then, it is short of what is needed,” he said.
“Government led by DUP/Sinn Fein is characterised now by stalemate, limited achievements, no achievements, talks that go nowhere, and is far, far short of the transformation politics that the Good Friday Agreement and the last 20 years were meant to be about.”