Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

SDLP hits back at Peter Robinson over code breach claims

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan

The SDLP has hit back at First Minister Peter Robinson's accusation that the party's sole Executive Minister broke the code of office.

The DUP leader pointed the finger at Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, who he said had ignored collective responsibility and decisions taken at the Executive by scrapping the Planning Bill.

But Mr Durkan's party insisted Health Minister Edwin Poots and Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland – both DUP – are more likely to have broken ministerial rules in the recent past. The bitter spat continued as Mr Durkan prepared for a sit-down session with Mr Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to see if the dumped planning legislation can be resurrected.

Mr Durkan dumped the Planning Bill after amendments were passed in the Assembly. The amendments were introduced by Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness following an 'economic pact' negotiated with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Durkan told MLAs the changes would limit the right of citizens to mount legal challenges to planning decisions and legal advice had shown the move would be a breach of human rights – a view which Attorney General John Larkin branded "mistaken".

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood insisted, however: "The Environment Minister has not breached the ministerial code.

"The DUP and Sinn Fein did not bring their amendments to the Executive which rendered the Planning Bill toxic.

"If a DUP minister hasn't breached the code for denying someone else the right to donate blood based on their sexuality, or for promoting public disorder... then the Environment Minister certainly hasn't for stopping bad law."

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