Finance Minister Conor Murphy must give an answer on the Stormont tree plantation: Robin Newton

Finance Minister Conor Murphy must give an answer on the Stormont tree plantation: Robin Newton

The DUP said that former DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson had previously consented to a similar ceremony for the GAA on its 125th anniversary back in 2009.

he Sinn Fein MLA’s Department has responsibility for the Stormont Estate, and was asked by Robin Newton MLA if he will consent to the tree planting.

Highlights

  • Mr Murphy had replied that his Department “has not received a request relating to the Queen’s Green Canopy Scheme and has no current plans to plant a tree to mark the Platinum Jubilee”.

  • “Conor Murphy is the Minister of Finance and has responsibility for the Stormont Estate. My question to him asked if ‘he’ will plant a tree or grant permission to others to honour Her Majesty’s dedication and long reign,” said Mr Newton.

But Mr Newton said the minister can initiate the tree-planting commemorative event himself.

“In recent years, my Department’s policy on commemorative structures or planting on the grounds of the Stormont Estate is to approve only those requests which commemorate international events such as World Aids Day or International Labour Day. Should a proposal to plant a tree be put forward that is compliant with this policy, I will give it due consideration.”

“The minister further hides behind his Department policy being to commemorate international events such as World Aids Day or International Labour Day,” the former Assembly Speaker said.

“When Sammy Wilson, as a DUP Finance Minister, gave permission to the GAA to plant a tree in the grounds he didn’t decline permission because it wasn’t an ‘international event’.

“It seems, just as in the case of planting a Northern Ireland Centenary Rose, Minister Murphy is just not going to recognise any royal or Northern Ireland event.” In 2009 Gerry Adams made a personal request to Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to allow a tree to be planted to commemorate the GAA.

“I think he expected me to say ‘take yourself off’,” Mr Wilson said at the time. “I actually thought it was a step forward, that here was a body which we regarded as a nationalist sporting body, wanting to be recognised in the grounds of the parliament of Northern Ireland.

“Then I kind of joked with him and said, ‘Gerry, it’s a bit of a change. It used to be, you lot wanted to plant bombs here, now you want to plant trees’. And at least he had the humour to laugh about it.” Sinn Fein have not responded to a request for comment.

According to the Sunday Times the TDs say they intend to tell Taoiseach Micheál Martin they are facing a “backlash” from supporters over the cabinet’s approval for Simon Coveney, the Fine Gael foreign affairs minister, and Jack Chambers, the Fianna Fail government chief whip, to attend. Leading the TDs, Brendan Smith, chairman of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party, said: “I’m of the same opinion as President Higgins and I would have thought the government would follow the same line as him.”

Around 150 invited guests, including the Queen, are due to attend the the cross community service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh on October 21. Meanwhile, several Fianna Fail TDs have voiced their anger at the Irish government’s decision to send two ministers to a church service to mark the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago, which President Michael D Higgins has refused to attend.