28 February 2008 Edition
Call for new standards in public life following Paisley resignation
Paisley announced his intention to resign last week amid continuing controversy and criticism of his links to a property developer and questions about his Assembly expenses.
Speaking in the Northern Assembly on Tuesday following Paisley’s confirmation that he had resigned from his position as a Junior Minister, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, MLA said that the party will be seeking to end the practice whereby members can use public monies to rent properties from family members.
“I wish Ian Paisley Jnr well. He and his father played a key role in the work to restore these institutions and in bringing unionism into the process. Undoubtedly there would not be working political institutions at this time without the leadership of the Paisley family and you deserve credit for that”, Adams said:
“Of course there are questions to be answered about the issues which lead to this resignation. It also serves to highlight the unacceptable behaviour of some parties and members. Sinn Féin will be seeking to end the practice whereby members can use public monies to rent properties from family members and other practices like this which are not in the public interest. Issues of propriety and accountability in public life are very important.
“Public confidence is essential and the public is entitled to expect the highest standards from everyone in public life. The Assembly has a responsibility to ensure this is the case”, he said.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin South Down MLA Willie Clarke, who is a member of the Assembly Standards and Privileges Committee, has said that the Assembly must take the lead on standards in public life and particularly in ensuring that there is openness when it comes to employing family members and in family members receiving payment for offices.
“The whole issue of family members being employed by Assembly members and receiving payment for the rental of offices has undoubtedly damaged public confidence and led to a perception that politicians are riding the gravy train. The recent revelations about Gregory Campbell and Kieran McCarthy only serve to re-enforce that perception”, Clarke said.
“The Assembly must act and act decisively to build public confidence. No MLA or family member should profit because of their public service.
“This means that we need to be open and transparent. It means we need to look at the guidelines and make changes to ensure high standards”, he said adding that some parties and MLAs are engaged in “unacceptable behaviour”.