Northern Ireland

Nelson McCausland: 'No intention of standing down'

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Media captionThe Stormont minister at the centre of a political row has said he has no intention of standing down

The Stormont minister at the centre of a political row has said he has no intention of standing down.

A Stormont committee is to investigate allegations of political interference in the running of the NI Housing Executive.

Nelson McCausland told the BBC he will not step aside as social development minister during the inquiry.

Mr McCausland denies he had ever sought to influence the awarding of contracts.

Speaking on the BBC programme The View on Thursday, he said he had been vindicated "time and time again".

Asked if he intended to stand aside during the investigation, Mr McCausland said: "It's an absolutely bizarre suggestion. I have no intention of stepping aside from doing the job that I am doing, which is delivering a good outcome for tenants of the Housing Executive."

'Under pressure'

The social development committee agreed to set up an inquiry into allegations made in a BBC NI Spotlight programme broadcast on Wednesday.

The programme contained an interview with DUP councillor and Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) board member, Jenny Palmer, who said she was put under pressure by her party to change her vote at a Housing Executive board meeting.

Mr McCausland denied that his special adviser, Stephen Brimstone, had telephoned Ms Palmer at his request.

He said it was likely no-one would ever get to the bottom of the matter.

Meanwhile, the first and deputy first ministers were questioned about Mr McCausland at a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Dublin on Friday.

Asked whether Mr McCausland should temporarily step aside, Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness said that was a matter for his party leader.

First Minister Peter Robinson said the best way ahead was to allow the social development committee to carry out an investigation that he hoped would be "more balanced than the Spotlight report".

The DUP leader said he would be prepared to talk to Ms Palmer and Mr Brimstone if they wanted to speak to him.

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey is chairman of Stormont's social development committee which is to investigate the allegations made in the Spotlight programme.

He told The View: "I think it would be very wise for the minister to consider where he sits at the minute.

"This is about public confidence - let's get the inquiries under way and let people step aside if they think they are in the fire."

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