At each tranche of UK Honours awarded by Queen Elizabeth II, i.e. Birthday and New Year, there is a perpetual argument over those who accept them, their suitability for being granted an honour etc etc. Social media lights up for weeks over arguments and the controversy shows no sign of abating.
Given our ‘unique’, for lack of a better word, situation with regards to constitutional issues, the awards system here usually attracts a clockwork-like precision for starting arguments.
BtP can reveal now, however, that NI Executive departments also make their own recommendations for UK Honours – including Sinn Fein-run Departments, which may surprise many people given the party’s own views, articulated by many of its senior members, on Irish citizens accepting UK honours.
“British colonialism has brought nothing but pain and misery to the Irish people. It is inconceivable how any Irish person who would describe themselves as nationalist or republican would allow themselves to become embroiled in the British honours system” – John O’Dowd speaking in 2006 (source: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/kelly-rejects-sf-criticism-of-his-obe-1.997441)
We asked for the number of nominations for New Years 2016 honours made by each NI Executive Department, and if nominations from Departments are signed off by Ministers.
The results were surprising. Departments as listed below made the following number of nominations, we have highlighted Departments with SF Ministers.
So..the Department with the highest number of nominations was the Department of Education, led by the same John O’Dowd MLA who gave the quote above. Note that the DUP-led Department of Finance and Personnel made no nominations.
On the sticky question of what role Ministers had in the nominations, and for any avoidance of doubt that SF Ministers would have signed off on the nominations, the second part of the response reads (emphasis added):
“Northern Ireland Ministers are given the opportunity to consider departmental recommendations for Honours. The purpose of consulting local Ministers is to:
• provide them with the opportunity to satisfy themselves that their departmental responsibilities are reasonably represented;
• enable them to comment where appropriate on any individual on the list; and
• to provide them with the opportunity to ask that consideration be given to the inclusion of a specific individual known to them who is not currently on the list.”
Clear as crystal. Another BtP exclusive.