DUP-Sinn Fein spats hit Executive business

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle, Belfast
First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle, Belfast

Little is being transacted at the Executive table on ‘bread and butter’ issues, it has emerged, as inter-party mudslinging in the Assembly chamber continues.

It is understood that last week’s Executive meeting discussed just one substantive paper while little is believed to be on the agenda for next week’s meeting.

And nothing appears to have been resolved on welfare reform, months after the then Finance Minister Sammy Wilson warned that Northern Ireland faces “potentially huge” costs if it cannot agree on the issue, with the Treasury threatening to cut Stormont’s income by £5 million a month from January.

The Alliance leader and Justice Minister, David Ford, said that the situation could not continue: “People in Northern Ireland will be quite surprised that after such a long gap between meetings there was very little business to be transacted.

“There are real issues and the Executive needs to collectively get a grip on matters and ensure that the Executive and Assembly are working properly for the people of Northern Ireland.”

A spokesman for Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland’s department said that he”remains fully committed to taking the Welfare Reform Bill through its remaining legislative stages. However, he cannot move the Bill towards the consideration stage until there is sufficient consensus within the Assembly.”

Meanwhile, Mr Wilson has claimed that the ‘crisis’ which Sinn Fein has said stems from the DUP’s approach to government is in fact a crisis within Sinn Fein.

The former finance minister said: “I have never been more aware of Sinn Fein MLAs talking about their discontent with decisions made by their ministers and their party leadership. The only crisis in Northern Ireland politics at the moment is a Sinn Fein management crisis where the leadership is struggling to keep all wings of the party on board. Gerry Kelly’s bluster about a crisis in Stormont has been rightly met with almost universal scepticism, including by some in his own party.”

And another DUP MP, Gregory Campbell, said that “every single time” Sinn Fein try to commemorate terrorism unionists would “expose their hypocrisy and they will never be allowed to forget it”.

Mr Campbell also described Gerry Kelly’s controversial tweet celebrating the 1983 IRA Maze prison escape as “appallingly insensitive”.