Northern Ireland

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey given courts warning

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe ultimatum to the social development minister was issued by Alex Maskey

The chairman of the Social Development (DSD) Committee has warned that unless Mervyn Storey produces a report by 12 February, "we're for the courts".

The ultimatum to the social development minister was issued by Alex Maskey.

MLAs agreed to Mr Storey's request to grant more time for releasing a report into claims of political interference in Housing Executive contracts.

The extension is dependent on the DSD minister appearing before the committee to explain why it was needed.

It is also dependent on the committee taking legal advice.

"I don't want to be taking that unprecedented step unless we've exhausted all opportunities to resolve it before that. That's why I'm offering a generous resolution to this," Sinn Féin's Mr Maskey said.

The TUV's Jim Allister said the appeal for deferral was indicative of "stalling tactics of the department", adding "we're in danger again of allowing the committee to be treated with considerable contempt and not just the committee, but the statutory powers".

He suggested that if Mr Storey did not comply with the committee's deadline they should "refer the matter to the prosecuting authorities because the next step if someone defied a section 44 (requiring the disclosure of information) is the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions".

Gregory Campbell of the DUP said the public would "be looking with almost disbelief if this committee, in all seriousness, starts to get uptight after 19 months of this inquiry".

"Let's not have people try and get on their high horse about a day or two, having messed about here for a year and a half," he said.

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly said "it is a report I think we should have had a very long time ago without this level of frustrated efforts by others to deprive the committee of the report".

"If there is nothing in the report that is contrary, why have we not got it?" asked, Sinn Féin's Mickey Brady, "Is there something to hide?".

A spokesperson for the Department for Social Development said: "The department is aware of correspondence from the Social Development Committee on the release of a document. The department has no further comment to ‎make."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites