I had initially decided to refrain from comment on the Margaret Ritchie affair as a lot of the info seemed to be missing from the debate. Today, for my part anyway, saw a new clarity enter the process.
Poor Ritchie is obviously cracking under pressure and the slap dash approach in which she has handled this affair is all too clear.
There has been some very baseless accusations made and spinning by stoop hacks that Sinn Féin were opposed to Ritchie's decision to stop funding the UDA by way of the CTI contract.
There is no one in Sinn Féin who wishes to see the UDA get any public money, the £1.2 million contract should never have been awarded in the first place. FFS the UDA have killed scores of our party members and even more of our supporters.
However there are rules to be followed and legal procedures that have to be completed in order to revoke the funding legally and I don't believe that Ritchie has complied with those procedures.
As Martin McGuinness has said already, she has lost the run of herself! Her performance on Hearts and Minds is testament to that fact.
The simple facts are thus
At last weeks executive meeting Ritchie agreed to provide the First and Deputy First Minister and the Minister for Finance with a copy of legal advice from the departmental solicitors office on the issue of funding.
As an aside I find it a very clear sign of gross incompetence that she was only receiving legal advice about the implications of withdrawing funding at that stage, despite the fact that the 60 days were almost up.
She also agreed to come back to the executive before making any announcement, she didn't do that.
Her version of events are about as credible as Bertie Ahern's Socialist credentials.
1. Legal Advice
She got two pieces of legal advice, both internal and external, in relation to this debacle. When quizzed as to why she sought the second piece of advice, the external advice, she claimed it was for a separate issue of concern.
Now, as anyone with half a brain will tell you Solicitors can offer advice on more than one issue of concern. The only credible reason for her seeking the second piece of advice is because she was unhappy with the first.
This premise is supported by Peter Robinson when he says
"The official legal advice the Minister received not only warned her she was vulnerable to a successful legal challenge but it helpfully set out the process to be followed in order that a lawful decision could be taken on such matters"
When asked if she would make public the legal advice she received in order to clear this up she hid behind the privileged excuse.
She has claimed that the minutes of the last meeting of the executive are fabricated. Aside from the fact that this is a serious allegation and a slur against the head of the Civil Service Nigel Hamilton, Sinn Féin and the DUP both agree that the minutes are a true and accurate account.
Why then, if the minutes were fabricated, did she not raise this issue before now?
She claims that she only received a draft copy yesterday but then admitted that she had knowledge that a draft copy was sent to the departmental solicitors office and the permanent secretary at the DSD last week.
She then tried to claim that Sinn Féin was opposed to her decision and when it was put to her that Sinn Féin supported the move to remove funding from the UDA she claimed that Sinn Féin were opposed to her because
“they voted against..eh..eh..me in..eh…my version of the minutes”
Of course they did because your version was incorrect
3. Briefings against her
The poor woman is claiming that everyone is briefing against her. She has claimed that Sinn Féin, the DUP, the British Government, the US Administration and the NICS have all briefed against her or tried to destabilise her.
She has more paranoia than a church full of Free P's and a bigger persecution complex than Willie Frazer.
I mean, come on Margaret, catch a grip!!!
The simple fact is that Margaret did not follow the agreed procedures or the Ministerial Code in this instance. As a member of the executive she is bound by collective responsibility and she did not heed that responsibility.