More suspicious minds…

22 01 2008

Stephen Moutray this time. He picks up the baton from Basil McCrea and asks the First and Deputy First Ministers whether they believe Caitriona breached the Ministerial Code on December 4.

Paisley/McGuinness helpfully declare that there ‘is no statutory requirement for Ministers to advise the Executive of their intention to make statements to the Assembly’, and that ‘the Minister is required by the Ministerial Code to bring to the attention of the Executive any matter which is significant or controversial’.

Er, all right. But the former does not abnegate responsibilities to fulfil the latter. Surely?

This has been a hot button issue since Martin’s now infamous press release in 2002. There can be no question that admission to post-primary education is the issue of controversy. So if this is her ‘new arrangement on education’ and these truly are concrete reforms then isn’t Caitriona obliged to bring the matter to the Executive?

Page 17 of the DUP Manifesto – entitled ‘Rectifying the Flaws of the Belfast Agreement’ – states that:

All Ministers will be bound by decisions of the Executive allowing a more coherent administration. Ministers will no longer be able to act alone, in narrow party interests.

Well, that doesn’t seem to be quite true though? Caitriona spent months preparing for and finalising this statement.

Can it be too difficult to demonstrate that she acted in solitary manner… by withholding the statement from Executive colleagues to the extent that some Ministers didn’t know what she would going to say? And as removing academic selection is a long-held SF policy, can it be too difficult to demonstrate that she was motivated by Party policy (‘narrow Party interests’)?

Caitriona is opposed to any form of academic selection. People voting for her back that proposition. And now as Education Minister she’s working hard to deliver for that constituency of opinion. In a sense, it’s not too different to Paisley Jnr acting beyond normal procedure on behalf of the people who voted him in.

So Caitriona is acting in the best interests of Sinn Fein voters. Her behaviour is understandable but it can’t be permissible. A weary-looking First Minister managed to hang in for just a tiny fraction the four-hour long Executive meeting today. Does he have the strength to deal with McGuinness if Robinson decides to deal roughly with Ruane? The Ministerial Code lies in tatters if he does not…

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