Inquiries Costing Millions Every Month: Campbell

Public Inquiries are costing millions of pounds of tax-payers money every month a DUP MP has claimed. Gregory Campbell, DUP Member of Parliament for East Londonderry was speaking out after a Parliamentary Question submitted to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward showed that over the course of a six month period from October 2007 to March of this year (the earliest figures available) the Robert Hamill Inquiry cost £2,705,350, whilst the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry cost £5,698,636 and the Billy Wright Inquiry cost £3,911,088.The Bloody Sunday Inquiry cost £2,355,549 over the period. Coupling these statistics with 48 upcoming inquests into security force related killings which the Chief Constable has described as “mini-public inquiries”, Mr. Campbell has claimed Northern Ireland could be spending as much as £100million per year for the next two or three years on historical inquiries.

Speaking today the DUP MP said:
“These inquiries are fast becoming an industry. However we have to ask ourselves can we as a society really afford to be spending so much public money on these costly public inquiries that could be invested elsewhere? What about the strain being placed on police resources because of obligations to these inquiries? Important as the issues being dealt with are, just what are we as a community gaining by government spending £5million a month of public money on inquiries into our troubled past?

Coupled with that, we are about to embark upon 48 inquests, which the Chief Constable has described as “mini inquiries” into security-force-related deaths in Northern Ireland – that will mean even more money being poured into paying for what amounts to more public inquiries. These funds could be put to much better use and I am sure many will question whether such expenditure represents genuine value for money in the economic plight which exists at the moment.”

Ruane Antics Prove Belfast Agreement-Style Government is Dead: Weir

Peter Weir, DUP Assembly Member for North Down, has said that the controversy engulfing Caitriona Ruane over the future of post-primary education serves as a reminder of the fact that Belfast Agreement-style government, where ministers in the Executive could do whatever they liked, is gone for good. Speaking today Peter Weir said:

“In the bad old days of the Belfast Agreement, the system of government crafted by the UUP and the other pro-Agreement parties allowed ministers to simply trot off and do whatever they wished within their own departmental remits. Decisions such as that taken by Bairbre de Brun to close maternity services at the Jubilee Maternity Unit and move them into the Royal Victoria Hospital in the heart of her West Belfast constituency, or the decision to abolish the 11+ test, could not be reversed because of the architecture of the old agreement designed by the Ulster Unionists.

Government departments were treated as free-standing silos, independent of each other and ministers, knowing they were utterly unaccountable could do as they pleased. Thanks to the efforts of the Democratic Unionist Party that is no longer the case. Due to the changes which we secured at St. Andrews, Caitriona Ruane cannot initiate any changes to our education system without the consent of her colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive.

The DUP has secured the future of academic selection in Northern Ireland. The recently leaked Sinn Fein memorandum on the issue admitted as much. We want to find a way forward on the vitally important issue of the future of our education system, but if Caitriona Ruane believes she can simply do whatever she likes on this matter, she is going to be greatly disappointed. She needs to get out of her “Free the Colombia Three”/West Belfast Festival-protest politician-mode and start behaving like a mature government minister trying to find a way forward on an issue of utmost importance.

The Trimble/Empey-days of ministers being in a position to initiate whatever policies they liked are over. Caitriona Ruane can bang her head against this brick-wall for as long as she likes, but sooner or later she will come to the realisation, as have many in her party, that she isn’t operating in a Belfast Agreement-style government: she needs the DUP to bring about any change in the education system and without the DUP she’s going nowhere fast on this issue.

People in Northern Ireland want an executive to be in charge of the business of government, they do not want solo-runs by maverick ministers. Good government relies upon a collective approach. As for the DUP, we want to see an agreed way forward, but failing that, people should be in no doubt whatsoever that academic selection is here to stay and there is nothing at all Caitriona Ruane can do about it.”

University Drop Outs Cost £15 Million – Wilson

The DUP’s Education spokesman, Sammy Wilson MP MLA, has said that the Government’s target of 50% of young people in higher education by 2010 is misguided and should be scrapped. Speaking from Westminster Mr Wilson said,
“To reach this target, the Government is pushing more young people into university, a growing number of whom do not have the academic competence necessary to complete their courses and therefore drop out from their courses.
I have obtained figures from the Department of Employment and Learning that show that over 4100 young people dropped out of university in Northern Ireland in the years 2000-2005 at a cost of almost £15 million pounds, with the number of those dropping out increasing nearly every year.
Not every young person is suited to a university education, and we need to get rid of this mindset that a university education is the only ‘good’ form of education. We need a well educated, talented and skilled workforce, but it is not necessary for everyone to have a degree. It is time for the Labour government to draw back from this ridiculous, expensive and ill thought out target.”

Parking Ticket Rise in Belfast Smacks of “Over Zealous” Approach – Spratt

South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt has hit out at the Department of Regional Development after they revealed that the number of parking tickets issued in Belfast has increased from 14,797 for the period 13 November 2006 to 31 March 2007, to a massive 47,876 for the period 1st April 2007 to 31 March 2008. Speaking after receiving the figures in a response to an Assembly Question tabled to the Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, Mr Spratt said:

“Such a massive rise in the number of parking tickets issues in Belfast would indicate that we do have a continuing problem with illegal parking in the city, but it would also hint that the approach taken by Roads Service is over zealous and draconian.

I receive many complaints from constituents about the approach taken by traffic wardens, who refuse to take into account any mitigating circumstances and purely approach parking as a ‘black and white’ issue. Indeed, only recently one constituent witnessed a disabled driver being forced to move by a traffic warden because they would be blocking access to fire appliances – despite the presence of an off duty fireman indicating the disabled gentleman was not causing any hindrance. Such episodes cause great distress for the innocent parties involved.

The issue here is that a ‘common sense’ approach is taken by traffic wardens rather than the over zealous approach currently taken by those patrolling our streets. We all want to see safe, legal parking, but at times a word in the ear can be as effective as a penalty charge notice. It begs the question how many times is advice or a warming given to motorists as an alternative to a fine?”