Editor's Viewpoint: DUP outburst will not stop scrutiny
One of the main criticisms of the compulsory power-sharing arrangement which exists in Northern Ireland is that it removes an essential component of democracy from governance — a credible opposition.
The main parties in the Executive may attempt to score points off each other, but that is not quite the same as forensically dissecting policy or checking the political behaviour of those in power.
The scrutiny that does exist comes from the media. It is a task which newspapers, radio and television take seriously, using their privileged positions to ask the questions that readers, listeners and viewers want answered. In the pursuit of that duty this newspaper asked a number of questions relating to the property portfolio of First Minister Peter Robinson and the lobbying record of his wife, Iris, on planning issues.
These perfectly legitimate questions have brought a startling response from the DUP which accused this newspaper of a “despicable campaign” against Mr Robinson and of using “lies, smears and innuendo” in an attempt to besmirch his name.
As a matter of record, this newspaper is not engaged in any vendetta against the First Minister. It is simply pursuing matters it believes to be of public interest and in the public interest and it will continue to do so. Lest there be any mistake, this newspaper is prepared to take the same action against any other politician, party, business or other organisation where it believes issues of public interest reside.
It will not be deflected from that task by the intemperate comments of any individual or organisation. The DUP statement, in its use of language, makes far more serious allegations against this newspaper than any we have directed at any of its members and with no evidence to go on. It is the fate of politicians to be subject to public scrutiny and this newspaper will continue to fulfil that role.