MLAS GO TOE-TO-TOE OVER DUP ‘WHISTLEBLOWING’ HOUSING EXECUTIVE ALLEGATIONS

Heated row as MLAs debate BBC NI Spotlight allegations over DUP Minister Nelson McCausland

Heated row as MLAs debate BBC NI Spotlight allegations over DUP Minister Nelson McCausland

UNIONIST MLAs clashed in the Assembly on Monday as the row over political interference in the Housing Executive by the DUP rumbled on.

The Assembly was recalled to discuss the accusations made on a BBC Spotlight programme last week.

Two hours and 15 minutes were set aside for the debate.

The motion calling for the Northern Ireland Assembly to investigate whether housing minister Nelson McCausland misled the assembly has been blocked.

A majority of members, 54 to 32, voted for it but a DUP petition of concern meant it was effectively defeated.

A petition of concern requires a cross-community vote.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has denied influencing a party member’s vote to abolish a contract the Housing Executive had with the maintenance company.

Opening the debate, Sinn Fein MLA, Catriona Ruane asked the DUP if double glazing contractor, Trevor Turkington or Red Sky were DUP party donors,

She said that there was no place for “a brown envelope culture”.

Ms Ruane, who moved the motion, called for Mr McCausland to step down while an investigation is carried out.

“I am calling on the minister to do the honourable thing and step aside from his role as Social Development Minister upon completion of inquiry and investigative processes,” she said.

“Anything less will leave our political system open to ridicule.

“Because his actions and the actions of his political adviser have created the thought in people’s minds that politicians are more concerned about boxing off their political supporters than they are about conducting themselves with probity and fairness.”

DUP MLA, east Londonderry MLA, Gregory Campbell, described the BBC Spotlight investigation as “absolutely scandalous.”

DUP MLA for east Belfast, Robin Newton, told the assembly: “Mr Norman Hayes (Red Sky) is not a member of the DUP, has never contributed to the Democratic Unionist party, has never been a fundraiser for the Democratic Unionist Party.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said the social development minister misled the assembly and the relevant committee.

Mr Allister added: “Have you no shame that you would use your position in office to promote a commercial interest” with someone who he alleged was “a political buddy.”

DUP leader Peter Robinson and TUV leader Jim Allister clashed after Mr Robinson asked Mr Allister if he would like to declare any interest in any of those mentioned in programme.

“If you think you know something bring it on,” Mr Allister replied.

DUP members have submitted a petition of concern on Monday’s motion, which was to see the re-called Northern Ireland Assembly examine whistleblower allegations over NIHE contracts, which means cross-party support would be needed before it could go ahead.

The television investigation included allegations made by DUP councillor Jenny Palmer, who is also a NIHE board member, that she was pressured by her party to change her vote on whether the public housing body’s contract with maintenance company Red Sky should be ended.

The DUP denies any wrongdoing and the party is taking legal action.

 

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