Nesbitt and committee in row over St Patrick's trip

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UUP leader Mike Nesbitt found himself in a minority of one when the OFMDFM Committee divided over the number of committee members to travel to Washington for St Patrick's Day, on 20 February 2013.

Mr Nesbitt, who chairs the OFMDFM Committee, said five members had been invited in 2013 rather than the usual two.

He said that if five members travelled it would cost the taxpayer £15,000, and suggested that only he and the deputy chairman should travel.

Sinn Fein and DUP members disagreed with Mr Nesbitt, saying the decision should be left to the individual parties.

Brenda Hale of the DUP said the largest parties would not have any representation.

The chairman said that in his experience, travelling to Washington as a journalist, the first and deputy first ministers represented their own parties as well as the Executive.

Mr Nesbitt insisted on a recorded vote on the matter and was defeated.

He said he would not travel to Washington as committee chairman.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said Mr Nesbitt was using the invitation to make a political point.

Mr Nesbitt returned to the matter at the end of the meeting, explaining that he would not travel if other parties accepted the invitation.

The committee was briefed by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney, on her organisation's report on adolescent suicide and accidental death.

She said the report made five key recommendations, including improving assessment, co-ordinating case management planning and identifying depression.

The commissioner said she wanted to see the Executive "doing the walking and not the talking".

The committee meeting concluded with two briefings from OFMDFM officials on European priorities.

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