Northern Ireland

Spotlight: Arlene Foster criticises 'parasitical' BBC over investigation

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Media captionDUP assembly member Arlene Foster spoke to BBC News NI Business Correspondent Julian O'Neill

A BBC NI Spotlight programme on how assembly members use their expenses was "typical of the parasitical nature" of the BBC, says DUP MLA Arlene Foster.

Spotlight examined the way MLAs use public money to rent their offices.

There were questions about why Mrs Foster used an office rent-free from a businessman from whom she also bought property.

While not disputing this, the DUP said no rules were broken. The BBC said it "stands by its journalism".

'Negativity'

Mrs Foster told the BBC on Thursday that she had paid market value for the property.

She said: "A derelict house for £75,000 on the main street of a provincial town - what's the story?

"There is no story and yet the BBC feel that its necessary to have a story, so they have to answer to their own licence fee people why they felt it necessary to put a story out on that."

Asked why she had waited until being contacted by the BBC before declaring the property with the assembly, she said she had already made the assessment that it did not need to be registered.

"The standards and privileges people said, 'yes that's right, you didn't need to register it but maybe you want to in the spirit of openness and transparency to put it on the record'," she said.

"I put it on the record but there was no necessity for me to record that, and therefore there's no story and yet the BBC felt it necessary to run me out with other people and I just think it's pathetic."

The Stormont enterprise minister added: "This is typical of the parasitical nature of the BBC and the fact that they want to give out a diet of bad news and negativity to the people of Northern Ireland on an ongoing basis.

"That's very good for the BBC, but in fact it actually has a confidence issue for the people of Northern Ireland.

"It dents people's civic pride in Northern Ireland and I think it's very destructive, and I think the BBC needs to answer why they feel the need to continue with their negativity and their parasitical nature."

The programme, broadcast on Tuesday, also revealed that Sinn Féin paid office rent to three different cultural societies, including rent for Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

However, it was not clear what the societies were or who was behind them.

Speaking on Wednesday, Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy described it as "a rubbish of a programme".

"I think it's a very good use of public money, because what has happened here is that Sinn Féin are renting accommodation for offices within a building that also serves the local community, provides resources for the local community and it's a not for profit organisation that the money's going to," he said.

"The money's used to actually deliver services."

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