The week outside westminster

Northern Ireland

• DUP First Minister, Peter Robinson announced that he would be stepping down for six weeks to clear his name over allegations made by the BBC’s Spotlight Programme concerning his involvement in his wife Iris’ financial dealings. He said that it would also give him time to support his wife, who it emerged was receiving Psychiatric care.

• Robinson appointed Enterprise Minister and former UUP Member Arelene Foster as Acting First Minister. She made clear her belief that Robinson would be back in frontline politics. The UUP and SDLP however weren’t quiet so sure, raising fears over the instability the developments would cause at Stormont.

• Despite concerns that the week’s events could topple the devolved institutions, coming in the middle of tense negotiators over policing and justice, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Brian Cowan remained upbeat on the prospects of a resolution to the outstanding issues on policing and justice. Gerry Adams concluded that “with political will these difficulties can be resolved” and the DUP’s Sammy Wilson described talks with Sinn Fein as “productive” and “friendly”.

• Finance Minister Sammy Wilson announced £367 million of cuts, including £113.5 million to the Health Department alone. Wilson concluded “I am confident that the proposals I am publishing today represent the best way forward in the next financial year.” His colleague, UUP Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey made his views clear – “I am absolutely disgusted”.

Wales

• The new First Minister, Carwyn Jones, used his first Question Time in the Assembly to announce that Assembly Members would get the chance to debate new powers for the Assembly and a referendum on the issue on February 9th. The call received widespread support from across the political spectrum.

• The First Minister called for communities to pull together during the severe winter weather amid fears that the weather was having a grim effect on winter deaths among the elderly and frail.

• Fire and Rescue personnel from Wales were deployed to assist with the rescue efforts following the tragic earthquake in Haiti.

• The Assembly Government promised to increase education spending in 2011.

Scotland

• Appearing before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, First Minister Alex Salmond attacked Tony Blair for including the Lockerbie bomber as part of a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, which he dubbed Blair’s “deal in the desert. He also alleged that Blair kept details of the agreement secret from colleagues for fear that they would veto such an agreement.

• Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill made clear that he stood by his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate ground. However, he added that in relation to al Megrahi’s hero’s welcome back to Libya,

“Clearly in terms of the scenes of welcome to Mr Al Megrahi that is a matter that we publicly stated was a matter of regret.”

• The Scottish Government made clear that it stood ready to provide financial support to earthquake hit Haiti.

• Alex Salmond warned that Scotland would face further economic pain as it recovered from recession, whilst it emerged that we’re likely to see a lot of Alex Salmond north of the border in the run up to and during the General Election. Lucky us!

 

Quote of the Week

“I will be resolutely defending attacks on my character and contesting any allegations of wrongdoing.”

DUP Leader Peter Robinson reacting to allegations made in the Spotlight Programme

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