MLA's 'Family Gas Drilling Link' Questioned

A Stormont Executive Minister has "nothing to hide" on a family's member's link to the granting of a licence for shale gas exploration in Co Fermanagh.

The DUP's Arlene Foster also said she has no interest in the issue to declare.

She was speaking after a North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA and Deputy Chair of the Enterprise Committee Daithí McKay said that the NI Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster "should have known better" and declared an interest with the Department that a family member owns land within project focus areas which a company has identified as being viable for drilling for gas in Fermanagh.

He has called on the DUP Minister to immediately declare an interest as members of the public expect Ministers to be transparent about such information.

Mr McKay said: "The Minister will remember how her party colleague Ian Paisley Junior did not declare his relationship with an applicant for a Visitors Centre at the Giant's Causeway when she said in the Assembly that she was minded to approve that particular application.

"It was quite clear from that case that the public feel that politicians have something to hide if they are not up front about certain matters which they view as being a conflict of interest.

"The Minister should have learned from that episode that the public expect politicians to be totally upfront and transparent about such matters.

"It is clear that the Minister should have at least informed the Permanent Secretary of her Department, especially given her strong views on the issue of shale gas exploration, of the facts of the situation as she speaks on the issue in her capacity as Minister.

"The Minister needs to declare this interest without hesitation as there is a public expectation that it is the right and proper thing to do."

But today, Mrs Foster said she has absolutely nothing to hide and will declare an interest if and when that becomes appropriate.

"The exploration licenses were granted by my department officials," she said.

"I have had no imput into any of the discussions or granting of licenses, therefore there is no declaration to make."


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