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Face to face... minister and MLA who claimed he misled Stormont

By Noel McAdam

Suspended MLA Iris Robinson will face the minister she has accused of misleading the Assembly - across a committee table.

Health minister Michael McGimpsey is to appear before the scrutiny committee chaired by Mrs Robinson on Friday.

The subject under discussion is the minister's "broad priorities" for health in the next few years rather than the budget row which led to Mrs Robinson being ordered to leave.

A separate session which will focus on the row over the Executive's draft budget for the health service and tensions between Mr McGimpsey and Mrs Robinson is being organised for the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Mrs Robinson has returned to the attack following her one-day suspension after she refused to withdraw her remarks and was found guilty by Mr Hay of "unparliamentary language".

The DUP MP said: "When I heard the minister's negative comments regarding the health allocation in the draft budget, I wanted to highlight to members that he, along with his party leader, had agreed to this draft allocation at the Executive table.

"Undoubtedly UUP members were attempting to mislead the chamber and score political points against the DUP.

"... I have devoted a large part of my career towards working to improve our health service. I believe we can have a service fit for purpose and a service to be proud of but we need an end to the inaction of the health minister.

"The minister must take action with regard to reforms within his department. The health budget has almost doubled since 2002 yet many people within Northern Ireland will rightly point out that the service has not improved at the same rate. The DHSSPS now receives 48% of the Northern Ireland block grant. If [he] continues to resist change and bury his head in the sand, then 100% of the block grant will ultimately not be enough for him. "

Mr McGimpsey, has said he has not signed off on the budget, which is out for consultation, has made no further comment.

A senior source, however said: "The meeting on Friday is a continuation of another meeting which ran out of time. It is not thought the budget issue will feature. Another one for that is being arranged."

Mr Hay said he would deal with complaints irrespective of where they came from in the chamber.

Earlier he urged MLAs to temper their language when feelings are running high in the chamber and criticised members for not raising a point of order when they believed a breach of standing orders had taken place.

Belfast Telegraph


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