Tyrone politicians showered with bizarre gifts

Kyrgyzstan police hat
Kyrgyzstan police hat

A Kyrgyzstan police hat, a Burmese wind chime, Turkish Delight sweets, gold-plated cuff links, jail memorabilia and a Native American prayer blanket are among the bizarre gifts showered on local Assembly Ministers.

Other more mundane presents, which must have been greeted by local politicians with painfully stretched smiles, included scissors, a packet of potato crisps, a box of ‘nuts and chews’, and a high visibility vest.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, former Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness, former Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster shared in the bounty along with their party colleagues from across Northern Ireland.

Their display cabinets must be groaning under the weight of china, crystal, paperweights, and wooden ornaments.

Donors included US presidential candidate hopeful Hilary Clinton, the Greek and Turkish governments, the Kyrgyztan and Kosovo police forces, the US consul, as well as members of the public, international companies, sporting bodies and voluntary organisations.

The full list of gifts was provided by the Northern Ireland Assembly in response to a Freedom of Information request. There is no allegation of wrongdoing against those who gave or received the gifts.

Former MP Michelle Gildernew experienced one of the greatest outpourings of gifts with a total of 103 presents during her four year tenure as Agriculture Minister.

As well as five cookery books and 23 bouquets of flowers, Ms O’Neill received nine bottles of whiskey and enjoyed the fat of the land with regular gifts of cheeses, potatoes, turkeys, apples and strawberries from local producers.

Unusually, she was also given a pair of scissors,two cuddly toys, and a box of nuts and chews as gifts.

Her party colleague, Michelle O’Neill shared her good fortune, accepting as gifts, large bags of potatoes, blocks of cheese, flowers, an ornamental cow, apples, meat hampers and an annual turkey.

In December 2012 the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness received a “wall plaque of Crumlin Road Gaol” from the Crumlin Road Gaol. Foreign dignitaries must believe that the former Mid Ulster MP has a sweet tooth, serving him up Turkish Delight sweets from the Turkish government, chocolates from the Egyptian Society, and fudge pancakes.

He also received an engraved pen from the Basque parliament, a book on Barack Obama from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and a piece of Crumlin Road jail.

In September 2013, the deputy first minister received a bolt from the Freedom Tower in New York from Silverstein Properties. Among the more mundane gifts given to Minister for Enterprise Arlene Foster was a high visibility vest.