McCausland goes to ground as calls for him to quit grow

John Manley Political Correspondent

DUP minister Nelson McCaus- land went to ground yesterday as calls for his resignation intensified.

The North Belfast MLA declined to appear in public or speak to the media about a Stormont committee report which found he deliberately misled fellow assembly members.

The social development committee concluded that the minister had intentionally claimed to have met representatives from the Glass and Glazing Federation when the meeting was in fact with Co Armagh company Turk-ington's, long-time supporters of the DUP and donors to the party.

The committee's damning findings, which form part of its investigation into allegations aired in a BBC Spotlight programme, have prompted calls for Mr McCausland to resign.

Even though the report's conclusions are severe it appears the minister will not be sanctioned in any way.

In addition to its criticism of the minister, the committee also voiced concern about the "inaction of senior civil servants" in the Department of Social Development who failed to challenge Mr McCausland when they knew he was factually incorrect.

SDLP MLA and committee member Dolores Kelly repeated her call for the minister to reconsider his position.

She said Mr McCausland's failure to resign highlighted the "poor standards of democracy" in the north.

"All the feedback I'm hearing is that the minister should go," she said.

"I won't hold my breath, however, because we rarely see the DUP taking responsibility for their actions."

Fellow committee member Michael Copeland described Mr McCausland as a "lame duck minister" who should reconsider his position.

The East Belfast MLA also criticised the minister's party colleagues for supporting the embattled Mr Mc-Causland.

"Committee members should be there to scrutinise, not to prop up a lame duck minister who has no clear knowledge or recollection of certain events," he said.

Committee chairman Alex Maskey did not call for the minister's head but said he had "serious questions to answer".

The Sinn Féin MLA was also critical of the DUP committee members who rejected the report's conclusions.

"All parties with the exception of the DUP took the view, based on the extensive evidence in the report, that the minister deliberately misled the committee," he said.

"Not only was the committee misled but there was a concerted effort to change the record of the meeting."

Mr McCausland is understood to still be in Northern Ireland but is declining to face the media.

His party colleague Sammy Wilson dismissed the report as "a discredited political witch-hunt and a waste of time and money."

He claimed Mr McCausland's discussions with Turkington's led to savings of more than one-fifth on previous costs. However, this claim has yet to be substantiated by the Housing Executive.

"The civil servants who gave evidence to the committee indicated that there was nothing untoward about his meetings," he said.

* DAMNING FINDINGS: Nelson McCausland

* FEEDBACK: SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly says Nelson McCausland shoud go


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: