DUP seeking powerful new CEO – but seemingly only ex-Spads need apply

The job was advertised on a noticeboard in DUP headquarters, Dundela Avenue, east Belfast.
The job was advertised on a noticeboard in DUP headquarters, Dundela Avenue, east Belfast.

The DUP is creating a powerful new chief executive role but the entire membership was not contacted about the post, with the only advert linking the DUP to the appointment being placed on a wall in party headquarters, the News Letter can reveal.

The essential criteria for what will be the party’s top employee appear to rule out anyone who has not been a Stormont special adviser (Spad) or a very senior civil servant.

For more than a decade, Timothy Johnston has been a key backroom figure behind the DUP's success

For more than a decade, Timothy Johnston has been a key backroom figure behind the DUP's success

A job specification obtained by the News Letter shows that the post-holder will be expected “to achieve the continued, sustained expansion” of the DUP, which in June’s General Election polled a record 292,316 votes even though the party only stood in 17 of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies.

Several DUP members who spoke to this newspaper believe that the overwhelming favourite for the post is Timothy Johnston, who along with Richard Bullick has been the key backroom force behind the DUP’s success for more than 15 years and who was Spad to three successive DUP first ministers.

Mr Bullick left front-line politics – although he remains a party member – in May to take up a post at PR and lobbying agency MCE Public Affairs. Both former Spads lost their £92,000-a-year posts when the Executive fell in January.

The process is being run by a recruitment agency, Neal Lucas Executive Search. The deadline for applications was last Monday and interviews for those shortlisted are scheduled to begin this week.

Mr Lucas said that the job was “posted internally and advertised externally through NIJobs.com”. He confirmed that “as common with recruitment for a senior executive role” the online advert had not stated that it was the DUP which wanted to appoint a chief executive “but this information was available on request”.

Among nine essential experience criteria for the post, the advert states that the only individuals who will be considered are those with “recent experience of working at a senior level in the local political arena”. An asterisk then further defines “senior level” as “working alongside or directly for ministers in the local Assembly”.

Another essential criteria involves ability to raise money, with a demand for “commercial acumen with a track record of successful income generation and fundraising and/or the successful bidding for financial resources”.

The post-holder will “devise and set, as approved by the Officer Board, the long-term organisational vision and direction and from this develop a robust strategy”, be responsible for the party’s day-to-day management and be responsible for the party’s financial management.

The individual will also be expected to “develop new streams of funding” and “ensure financial stability through cost controls as required” as well as being responsible for “corporate governance, ethical behaviour and business practice for both self and others”.

Candidates are asked to set out their current salary, bonus, car allowance, pension and health care benefits.

When asked how the post was advertised and why the criteria seemed to restrict applicants to those who have been Spads, a DUP spokesman said: “The party has engaged an external consultant to carry out the recruitment for this position. It has been advertised both internally and externally and the party is satisfied with the process.”