T2. Mr E McCann asked the Minister of Finance, in view of the lively exchanges across the House earlier, whether he can recall the recent day when he and Minister Girvan walked together down the grand staircase outside, prompting journalists, visitors and others in the Great Hall to break into a spontaneous chorus of, “Here they are again, happy as can be, all good friends and jolly good company”; to state when the bromance ended and, given all that had happened before, to outline what it was that caused him suddenly to realise that Mr Givan was not the type of fellow he could work with. (AQT 637/16-21)
This is Minister Girvan in waiting. I think you mentioned Mr Girvan first, but Minister Givan is certainly very pertinent to the discussion today.
Let me put one thing on record, because my colleague Ms Long was too exasperated to allow me to make a correction earlier: Minister Givan is absolutely wrong when he says that he did not and does not have the authority to make the mitigation payments for the bedroom tax and other welfare payments. My advice is 100% correct. He could have acted in that way. I am content that he has come forward with regulations, if that is his choice, but the situation is that I was absolutely right. As I said to Ms Long earlier, when you get a pledge from the Finance Minister, you can take it to the bank. You can be sure of that.
I find it interesting that, when I ask the Minister of Finance about the shock deterioration in his relationship over the last week, he does not answer me at all. He answered the Minister for Communities, who is not even present. What am I to deduce from that? Even after they break up, they still cannot help thinking about one another.
I am now very happy to answer Mr McCann's question, having got the other matters on the record. Eamonn, we entered into a Fresh Start with the DUP and did our level best. Martin McGuinness epitomised that effort in the weeks and months since Fresh Start. We deliberately stretched out the hand of friendship. Mr Givan and I visited Portrush, where I was very keen to support an initiative that he was involved in around the forthcoming Open. That was our approach, and it was the correct one. The community wanted a fresh start. However, that fresh start was undermined by the repeated actions of the DUP and by the fact that there was no reciprocity. As you know, Mr Givan excelled himself: he went above and beyond in terms of the daily provocations from the DUP before Christmas when he moved into a class of one by his action on the Líofa bursary.