Well. This morning finds me saddened. My old chum Nelson McCausland, who as you know is concerned about bigotry and sectarianism, particularly in people like me, is now at the centre of a political storm. There’s even talk of recalling the Assembly to look at the relationship between the contracting firm Red Sky and the DUP.
I didn’t see the Spotlight programme which gave the detail of this particular storm, but there appear to be allegations that staff members of the Housing Executive took bribes from contractors. There are also claims that Lisburn DUP councillor Jenny Palmer, who was on the Housing Executive board, was put under pressure by Nelson’s special adviser Stephen Brimstone to vote in a way contrary to her conscience.
(That hollow laughter you hear is coming from Sinn Féin. “Did they say something about special advisers? The people who were horrified that anyone with a past could be considered as a special adviser? Here, pull the other one!”. )
Something I hear quite frequently is that there’s a tradition of brown baggery south of the border and that leading parties there, especially Fianna Fail, are innately corrupt when it comes to money and politics. This is usually followed by a distinction between such corruption and the way those of us north of the border conduct our political affairs. Yet this morning we hear talk of bad things about Red Sky, the contractors at the heart of this dispute. There are allegations of poor workmanship, charging for work not being done, charging for non-existent buildings - and attempts to put Red Sky back in the game under a different name.
I don’t know if any of these allegations are true. But if they are, it confirms what I’ve held for a long time: claims that we northerners have a craggy integrity when compared with our wheeling-dealing fellow-countrymen south of the border is miles off the mark. If we appear less corrupt it’s because we haven’t had the opportunity to be corrupt or that we haven’t been caught being corrupt. Yet.
But let me stress again: my heart is sore this morning for my old chum Nelson and any suggestion that he was involved in this matter in any way is of course bogus. A finer, more up-standing, less-bigoted man could not be found in the DUP or anywhere else.
Excuse me - I have now to tend to my cat, which has fallen suddenly ill.