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DUP Minister Nelson McCausland faces probe over donor meeting 'cover-up'

By Noel McAdam

DUP Minister Nelson McCausland will face accusations in the Assembly next week that he deliberately misled MLAs, which will revive calls that he should resign or be sacked.

On its first day back from recess, the Stormont chamber will hear that the committee that monitors the Social Development Minister has concluded that statements he made were "neither unintentional nor inadvertent".

The controversy over a meeting the minister held with a Co Armagh company that donated to his party led to claims that in any other jurisdiction Mr McCausland would have had to stand down.

No censure motion has been tabled against the minister at this stage. The committee concerned is continuing to investigate the allegations, including claims in a BBC Spotlight investigation into alleged housing fraud. Committee chair Alex Maskey said: "This is only the start of the process. Our inquiries are now entering a new phase and any motion would be premature."

It has also emerged the multi-party committee is to double its weekly meetings to take evidence from a number of witnesses – with other people who have already given evidence also likely to be recalled.

The committee is holding a behind-closed-doors session tomorrow to arrange the sequence of witnesses for the weeks ahead.

Mr McCausland's department yesterday confirmed he would respond to the debate.

It is thought likely he will repeat his insistence that he "inadvertently (and) unintentionally misinformed" MLAs in claiming a meeting was with representatives from the Glazing Federation when in fact it was with the company Turkington, which had been a DUP donor.

In its report last month, the committee said: "It was considered by the majority of members that the determined efforts that the minister and his special adviser made to remove Turkington from the record would suggest that it was neither unintentional nor inadvertent."

Mr Alex Maskey said: "Nelson McCausland needs to explain why he deliberately misled the committee, and his colleagues must also say where they stand."

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