The Democratic Unionist Party has achieved a major victory on the content of the new Criminal Damages Order which related to compensation arrangements for community halls. In the original order, put out for consultation, there was a sunset clause which would see the new arrangements time-limited for three years. This will not now be included in the legislation which is presented before Parliament. The DUP has been lobbying at the very highest level of government to ensure the clause was dropped. Rt. Hon. Peter Robinson MP said:
“The Loyal Orders form a major part of the culture and identity of our community. In the past, when halls were attacked it was extremely difficult for them to access compensation for the damages that they had suffered. The new compensation arrangements contained in the Criminal Damages Order will end the disgraceful situation whereby Orange Institution found it hard to acquire compensation and increasingly difficult to obtain satisfactory insurance cover.
The DUP has worked very closely with the Orange Institution to get to the point where we have achieved the necessary changes to the Criminal Damages Order. These changes will also make acquiring insurance for Orange Halls much easier. I am pleased that we have removed the one flaw that was in the legislation as originally published – the so-called sunset clause. We believed that this clause was unnecessary and would have inhibited the scheme achieving its full positive outcome of helping Orange Halls around the country, which is what we all want to see.
The DUP believes in the value and worth of the loyal orders and the important role which they play in our community. Orange Halls provide a network of community centres throughout Northern Ireland and it is only right and proper that their role should be recognised by government. In devolution, the DUP has made support for culture and heritage a key priority.”

Monitoring round shows advantages of Devolution

North Down DUP Assembly Member, Peter Weir MLA has welcomed the contents of the December Monitoring Round. As part of the Monitoring Round, the DUP Finance Minister, Nigel Dodds today announced a range of measures including:
£20million to the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme £4.0million for Schools Maintenance £2.5million for Roads Structural Maintenance £1.8million for Public Transport Capital Works £15million for tackling Fuel Poverty £1.6million for Children’s Funds £2.6million for Youth Workers £1.5million for DARD for Animal Health schemes
Mr. Weir said:
“Anyone who doubted the value of devolution should examine closely the recommendations of the December Monitoring Round. The fact that a locally accountable minister was in post at Stormont making these decisions means that they can be responsive to the needs of the community in a way that some fly-by-night direct ruler, with their own English, Scottish or Welsh constituency never could.
The contents of the Monitoring Round represent an investment in the people of Northern Ireland. We have a government at Stormont and people are looking to that government to deliver for them and help in these very trying times. Today’s range of packages unveiled by the Finance Minister, Nigel Dodds show what’s best about devolution – tailoring governmental processes and initiatives to local needs, in order that they can bring maximum benefits to the people of Northern Ireland.
What is clear is that Northern Ireland is benefiting from having devolution at Stormont. A return to direct rule would be a retrograde step to inactive government which cannot and does not respond to the needs of the people. I believe that all those who will be benefiting from today’s announcements ranging from the farmers, through to the pensioners and the young people who will see the positive impact of these developments on the ground in their communities will reject the siren voices calling for a return to direct rule. Devolution is clearly good for Northern Ireland in a way direct rule could never be.”

DUP rejects NIHRC Bill of Rights report

The Democratic Unionist Party has rejected the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission report on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. In a hard-hitting statement, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said that the Commission had “taken the foolish Bill of Rights Forum recommendations and made them worse”. Mr. Donaldson also noted that there was no democratic legitimacy attached to the Commission recommendations. Jeffrey Donaldson said:

“At every stage in this process the DUP has made it very clear that the litmus test for any Bill of Rights will be the degree of confidence which it can command across the entire community in Northern Ireland. When the Bill of Rights Forum presented its report to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Monica McWilliams some time ago, we made it clear that the contents of that report were entirely unacceptable to the pro-Union community.

The DUP and UUP members of the Bill of Rights Forum dissented from huge tracts of the report, as indeed did members of the Alliance Party. The Northern Ireland Assembly called upon the Commission to ensure that their report was capable of attracting cross-community support – they have demonstrably failed to heed that call.

It is truly bizarre to see that Monica McWilliams has actually taken the foolish Bill of Rights Forum recommendations and made them worse. Again, individuals with a Unionist community background, this time represented on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, have withheld their consent from the document presented by Professor McWilliams today. These proposals have not one scintilla of democratic legitimacy and cannot command the support of the entire community in Northern Ireland.

Examining the report presented by the NIHRC it is clear that they have failed to adhere to the remit which was given to them. The Bill of Rights was supposed to have a special focus on rights provision which reflects the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. The dog’s breakfast produced by the NIHRC does not do this and instead reads more like a 1970s left-wing domestic policy wish-list. It is for politicians with a mandate from the people to make policy decisions – not unelected quango members or the courts.

At the time that the Bill of Rights Forum reported, the DUP rejected the use of a Bill of Rights as a Trojan Horse for the political prejudices of some of the forum members. It is clear that not only have those biases made it into the NIHRC report, but they have been expanded by the former Women’s Coalition leader and some of her colleagues.

The DUP wants a Bill of Rights that can command the support of everyone. This document is not it and therefore must be confined to the waste-paper basket where it belongs.”