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Stormont ministers tight-lipped on vacations

Culture and Leisure Minister Nelson McCausland is on furlough this week — in Fermanagh.

And the DUP MLA had another week’s holiday in the Lake District and Scottish borders area in July.

Meanwhile, SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood is currently in France.

But the holiday hideaways of most Executive ministers remains a closely-guarded Stormont secret.

Both individual departments and political parties declined to reveal the destinations of ministers on grounds of privacy.

And Sinn Fein insisted it would be “madness” to disclose any details given a persistent spate of security threats from dissident republicans.

The party said most of its ministers, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and junior minister Gerry Kelly, “have received death threats in recent times”.

“We are hardly going to broadcast their holiday plans,” a spokesman said.

It is well-known, however, that Mr McGuinness favours a spot of fishing during August, usually in the Republic.

And First Minister Peter Robinson is most often to be found at his family base in Florida at this time of year.

A spokesman for the First Minister’s Office said, however, that all ministers remain in contact with their departments at all times.

“And the Executive has agreed that, even though they are not due to meet again until September and had their last meeting at the end of July, they would come together quickly in the event of a crisis.

“It must also be pointed out that none of the ministers are taking more than their statutory holidays.”

But some insist on privacy. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, for example, said: “We are not at liberty to disclose the minister's personal diary dates/details.”

And a spokeswoman for his Ulster Unionist Party said: “He’s away on leave and that's all I've been told.”

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