The DUP toes the line while the finance committee wastes time

Finance committee chair Emma Little-Pengelly and committee member Paul Givan DUP after a special meeting of Stormont's finance committee. Picture by Mal McCann 
Analysis by John Manley

IT took five days but finally the DUP got around to calling for Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to step aside as finance minister until the investigation into the Daithí McKay-Jamie Bryson backchanneling scandal is concluded.

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The party belatedly realised that tacitly backing Mr Ó Muilleoir remaining as a minister was not sustainable given the chorus of calls from the opposition for him to go – albeit temporarily.

To regard this as a sudden hardening of relations at the heart of the executive would be to vastly overstate its significance.

It may merely be some expedient manoeuvring that enables the DUP to avoid a barracking from fellow unionists for propping up Sinn Féin.

When the weekly executive meetings resume again, it'll likely be business as usual.

We can only assume First Minister Arlene Foster now believes Mr Ó Muilleoir should go, as she continues to maintain radio silence.

Responsibility for officially calling for him 'to do a Peter Robinson' and enjoy a spot of gardening leave fell to Emma Little Pengelly, chairwoman of the Finance Committee.

Following the shake-up of Stormont's departments and scrutiny committees, she is Mr McKay's successor and feels duty bound to probe his actions.

What is Nama?

Tuesday's specially convened committee meeting gave an insight into what an arduous and, in all likelihood, unproductive process this is going to be.

Some would argue that two-hour meeting was a grandstanding session followed by an excruciating discussion which included legal terms such as "evidentiary worth" and "sub judice".

With the standards commissioner already tasked with investigating the matter, one has to question the worth of whatever it is the finance committee is up to.

But hey, this is Stormont – where antics passes for politics.


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