DUP ministers ‘misled’ Assembly over Spad appointments

TUV leader Jim Allister
TUV leader Jim Allister

DUP ministers “brazenly misled” the Assembly over the process used to appoint special advisors, TUV leader Jim Allister has claimed.

It comes after evidence to the RHI Inquiry showed that the DUP routinely broke the law in how it appointed special advisors (Spads)

The law says that Spads must be chosen by the minister who appoints them and that appointments “shall be subject to the terms of the code”.

But Arlene Foster, appearing in front of the inquiry this week, agreed that a key element of the evidence of former DUP minister Jonathan Bell and his former Spad Tim Cairns was correct – that the DUP centrally chose who would be Spads and they were then allocated to ministers.

Mr Allister asserted that, in light of this admission, it followed that DUP ministers had “brazenly misled” the Assembly on the issue.

“I say this because I systematically asked every minister - in both 2011 and 2016 - through Assembly Questions about the Spad appointment process they followed,” he added.

“Each boldly told the Assembly through their answers, which Standing Orders require to be accurate, that each special adviser was appointed in accordance with the Code.

“From sworn testimony to the RHI Inquiry, we now know this to be untrue. So, the question to each minister who gave such false replies is why did they deliberately mislead the House?

“Sadly, this but typifies the dishonourable standard of government which prevailed at Stormont.”

The North Antrim MLA said he has, by correspondence, drawn the attention of the RHI Inquiry to a series of written questions and answers he submitted to the Assembly between 2011 and 2016.

In 2011, Mr Allister asked the then first and deputy first minister about the appointment process used for Spads in their department.

In the subsequent five years, he posed the same question to ministers in other departments.

In each case, the response was that all Spads had been appointed in line with the code.