First Minister Peter Robinson has been branded a humbug after claiming that his party’s decision to back the government plan for 42-day detention of terror suspects helped deliver major investment for Northern Ireland.
Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis of Drumglass named Mr Robinson “First Minister for Humbug and Fiction” over comments he made in an interview this week.
The DUP leader denied his party had been granted political favours for backing Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the crucial Westminster vote in June, but said the decision had proved the DUP was a responsible party and that government later “bent over backwards” to help it.
The House of Commons split by 315 votes to 306, with the DUP’s nine MPs securing a victory for the government. This week, Mr Robinson said his party had simply done the right thing, but the good relationship forged with the government had paid off for the people of Northern Ireland.
In July it was announced that Bombardier Aerospace was investing half a billion pounds in Northern Ireland, sustaining more than 800 jobs at the Shorts factory in Mr Robinson's East Belfast constituency.
“They (the government) came up with the goods in terms of the Bombardier deal... which was the largest single investment in Northern Ireland,” the DUP leader said. “But they bent over backwards to help us.
Mr Robinson said government also brought forward legislation to compensate Orange Order Halls attacked by arsonists and accepted DUP changes to the proposals, and in November a £900 million financial deal to kick-start Northern Ireland's devolved government was finalised after talks between Mr Brown.
“Would we have got the £900 million if we had been irresponsible in the way that we behaved at Westminster? I think there is a recognition that if you are seen to be acting responsibly, then people will act responsibly with you,” the First Minister said.
But Lord Maginnis said the UUP’s votes must have been even more important as the government lost the 42-day detention debate.
“Moreover, to even suggest that a single measure to erode freedom for everyone in the UK will somehow curtail international terrorism is fiction! Most of those who have actually confronted terrorism at the coalface know that good intelligence and not some abuse of the legal system is what is required,” he said.
“To merely, in a one-off situation, ensure that a wrong decision is made — albeit temporarily, is hardly the sort of influence anyone other than an opportunist would boast about.
“But then the great reality is that greedy three/four-job DUP are never long enough at Westminster to be effective or to influence opinion on core issues. Democracy is about much more than voting.
“And the very idea that Bombardier money was dependent on Peter Robinson rather than on a technically superior company with a unique new aircraft and a vastly superior, highly skilled workforce is more humbug.
“It's well-known that the roughly £900 million pounds that Mr Robinson infers came ‘in November' — which November? - is absolute fiction. If it had been in November 2007, why would we have had a 155-day moratorium of the Assembly's Executive in 2008; if November 2008 then tell us all where it is and how are we going to |benefit.”
The UUP peer suggested the money was sanctioned in 2004/5 and was coming to Northern Ireland anyway.
“Is this not ‘the cow' that the DUP was sold twice at St Andrews?
“Has much of the extra money over the past two/three years was already earmarked for historical underpayments of civil servants' salaries during Direct Rule, for compensation payments to police with hearing damage and to meet a police pension deficit arising from the cost of Patten?” he asked.