Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew today hit back after she was ordered to appear before her Assembly scrutiny committee or face the consequences.
The Stormont agriculture committee insisted that the Minister must come before them next Tuesday to discuss the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue or they would get the Speaker to order her to appear.
But the Minister has accused agriculture committee chairman the Rev William McCrea (DUP South Antrim) of playing petty politics, pointing out that she had received the invitation late on Monday night and was already committed to attending the National Ploughing Championships at Tullamore to promote Northern Ireland's agriculture industry.
"I'm not going to respond to Willie's tantrums and stamping his feet. I wouldn't expect this from my five-year-old child and I don't expect it from the chairman of the Stormont agriculture committee," she told BBC Radio Ulster this morning.
Senior agriculture officials went before the committee yesterday to discuss the disease outbreaks and the budget but were sent away unheard and told to " do something useful in their department".
Committee chairman Rev McCrea commented: "She will appear before us next Tuesday or we will go to the Speaker to get him to order her to come to the committee."
He said they had sent Ms Gildernew a very straightforward letter spelling out the options and expressing their disquiet that she had not appeared before them today or at any time since July 3, despite them sitting through the summer recess.
"Frankly we have had enough," he said.
"The Minister's actions are totally unacceptable and no other Minister would try what she is doing - she is not going to get away with it."
He said the committee had received a letter saying the Minister could not attend today - but said she had managed to find the time to meet and discuss foot and mouth with members of the farming community across the border in the Republic.
Now the Minister had a simple option: "You either come or you are ordered to come."
The agriculture committee chairman said the last time they saw their Minister was when the foot and mouth disease outbreak was said to be under control and when restrictions were being eased.
"Since then there has been a fourth, fifth, sixth and now seventh confirmed case as well as bluetongue which could be very serious for the farming industry - we want the Minister in front of us to discuss it, not her officials."
Ms Gildernew pointed out that the committee has met three times since her last appearance and has been briefed twice by senior DARD officials.
She said she has set an indicative date of October 9 to appear before the committee.
"I met with Willie McCrea and deputy chairman Tom Elliott on September 10 to give them an update on the foot and mouth situation," she said.
The Minister said Mr McCrea was using his position - "some would say abusing it" - to play petty politics and use scare tactics to misinform the public that she was not engaging with the committee.