Monday, 3 June 2013

To Top It All

The current scandal surrounding John Laird is of course not the first. Indeed, one would have to be a very brave or very well-informed person to claim to be able to state with certainty what the first actually was. An oft-cited example involved expenses claims on the public purse for taxis taken between Belfast and Derry and Belfast and Dublin back in the days when Lord Laird chaired the grotesquely mismanaged Ulster-Scots Agency.

Yet even that must be small beer compared with the huge sums Laird has caused to be spent on administration answering an almost constant barrage of parliamentary questions, some of them ridiculously trivial in nature.

He has also not once but three times been an innocent (or, in the third case, knowing) associate of paedophiles, first with British Israelite William McGrath of Tara (see p. 32 of Chris Moore's The Kincora Scandal), secondly with Stan Mallon, a civil servant drafted in to run the agency, and thirdly with Christopher Charles Knight, the American who planned to buy the Belfast Giants ice hockey team. Depite being aware of the Florida entrepreneur's conviction — and oddly lenient sentence — for a "minor misdemeanour" (Laird) that must surely have constituted the violent rape of a child, the peer not only agreed to advise Knight Communications but set up another business, Time is On Your Side Ltd., with him.

It is not inconceivable that Laird will ultimately be vindicated and return to the UUP fold; after all, they both need each other. Nevertheless, the peer does now appear scandal-prone, and in politics that is its own crime.

Interesting too was the reaction of the UUP in suspending from the parliamentary party a man who, like a good PR professional, had already pre-emptively resigned the whip and referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards — impotence that might sum up its barely justified contemporary existence.

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