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Spin doctor David Gordon faces questions over Stormont appointment

By Noel McAdam

Published 21/09/2016

David Gordon
David Gordon

New Stormont spin-doctor David Gordon is set to be summoned before the Assembly committee which monitors the Executive.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are also likely to face a committee grilling over their decision to use special powers to appoint the editor of the BBC NI Stephen Nolan show to a new role as Executive Press Secretary.

Members are also likely to ask Mr Gordon whether he agrees a new media strategy being drawn up should be made public.

The man who Mr Gordon is largely replacing, Director of Communications Stephen Grimason, has recommended that it should be published - though it will be for Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness to make a final decision.

The plan to promote the Executive is being drawn up in parallel with ongoing consultations on the new Programme for Government.

When he appeared before the Executive committee in June, chairman Mike Nesbitt, the Ulster Unionist leader, asked Mr Grimason: "Will you publish a communications strategy over the next number of months or after the Programme for Government and all the other documents are out, so that we can look at that." Mr Grimason, a former BBC NI political correspondent who worked for the Executive for more than 15 years, said: "That will be my advice to Ministers, and it is for them to decide whether it will be published."

Stormont opposition leader Mr Nesbitt queried: "You will have one, but it might not be published?"

Mr Grimason replied: "We work under the control and direction of Ministers, and, generally, what a Minister wants, a Minister gets."

Ahead of today's regular weekly meeting of the committee, which Mr Nesbitt has asked to discuss the controversial appointment, he also asked: "On a personal level, was David Gordon aware of the process the First Ministers were using, and if not, why not?"

Mr Gordon, who is still a BBC employee and does not take up his position until next month, has made no comment so far.

An Executive briefing note has argued, however: "While this manufactured storm runs its course, Executive Ministers are getting on with the job of Government, determined to pursue policies that make a real difference.

"In a few weeks, David Gordon will be at his new desk helping us in that task. It is extremely useful that he has been given an early insight into the vacuousness and double standards on Opposition benches."

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