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Nelson McCausland is a minister who courts controversy

Brendan Hughes

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NELSON McCausland has continually courted controversy over the years both as an executive minister and Stormont MLA for the DUP.

The social development minister came under pressure last year after allegations of political interference in the running of the Housing Executive were broadcast on a BBC Spotlight programme.

Among the claims made, it featured an interview with DUP councillor and Housing Executive (NIHE) board member Jenny Palmer who said she was put under party pressure to change her board meeting vote.

Mrs Palmer said Mr McCausland's special adviser told her to vote against removing a Housing Executive contract from maintenance company Red Sky.

The east Belfast firm's £8 million-a-year contract had been terminated amid allegations that it had overcharged for work on NIHE properties.

Mr McCausland denied any wrongdoing and said his special adviser Stephen Brimstone had been "misrepresented".

The north Belfast MLA has also faced criticism over the allocation of social housing, particularly in north Belfast.

The Equality Commission announced in May that it would investigate the Department for Social Development (DSD) over a possible breach of equality laws.

It said the DSD may have failed to comply with the proper procedures in relation to its housing strategy.

Weeks later Sinn Féin asked the Human Rights Commission to investigate the DSD over its social housing allocation.

The party claimed there was "persistent evidence" of longer waiting times and greater homelessness within Catholic and nationalist communities.

Mr McCausland, a member of the Orange Order, has also come under fire for failing to condemn loyalists who breach Parades Commission rulings.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin sought to exclude the minister from office for three months in 2012 for allegedly breaching the ministerial code over the issue.

However, the assembly motion failed after unionists voted against it. And in 2010 when he was culture minister, Mr McCausland faced criticism after calling for the Ulster Museum in south Belfast to give more recognition to creationism.

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