DUP to levy fines up to £1,000 if media rules breached, says whistleblower

Party runs shy of comment on claim politicians obliged to get approval from press office

The party said it operates “under a constitution and a code of conduct”.

The party said it operates “under a constitution and a code of conduct”.

 

The Democratic Unionist Party is prepared to impose fines of up to £1,000 (€1,100) on its politicians if they speak to the media without permission from the press office, it has been claimed.

The party has refused to comment on allegations from a whistleblower believed to be a DUP member and to have knowledge of the party’s internal workings.

It is understood an initial fine for breaching party discipline will be £100, rising to £500 for a second offence and finally to £1,000.

BBC Northern Ireland on Tuesday reported it had seen a letter signed by party chief executive Timothy Johnston imposing a £100 fine on an elected representative.

The letter is believed to emphasise that party rules “apply to all MPs, MLAs and councillors on political matters that are outside of their narrow constituency business”.

It is understood that one of the party’s representatives who may have faced fines is former minister for health Jim Wells. Mr Wells recently lost the party whip after comments critical of the leadership.He had said he expected to be disciplined and deselected from his south Down seat.

Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party, SDLP and Alliance say they do not operate such a fines regime.

Former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Alistair Graham said the practice of fining elected representatives was “quite unacceptable”.

“I am quite shocked really that a political party, who understandably wants to try and control the message that gets out to the public, is imposing fines on an elected representative whose public duty is to represent their constituents, not just follow the party line,” he said.

The whistleblower also claimed the party was boycotting the BBC NI morning phone-in programme The Nolan Show. Stephen Nolan’s programme has carried considerable detail from the on-going inquiry into the botched renewable heating incentive scheme, which has become known as “cash for ash”.

A party spokesman said: “The DUP operates under a constitution and a code of conduct . . . the party reserves the right to decide what programmes to participate in . . . to ensure ongoing communication with the people of Northern Ireland.”