Ten days after the new Parades Commission was announced, its most high-profile member has resigned, the News Letter understands.
Glyn Roberts, a prominent spokesman for the local business community who was due to begin his work on the commission next week, last night declined to comment on what had happened.
But it is understood that his commitments as head of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) were a factor in the shock decision.
The Alliance Party member and former party chairman was, along with four others, appointed by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.
However, the resignation will not stop the commission operating as it only requires a quorum of three members to make a decision.
Mr Roberts frequently appears in the media in his role as chief executive of NIIRTA, a body representing small traders. In this capacity, he had spoken out over flag protests in the recent past, amid concerns over the impact they were having on business.
Since he has not formally taken up his duties yet, the Parades Commission declined to comment, and referred the News Letter to the NIO.
Mr Roberts himself yesterday refused to be drawn about his position, when the News Letter first put the suggestion that he was quitting to him.
“All I can say is there’ll be an announcement tomorrow [Monday]. I can’t really pre-empt that,” he said yesterday afternoon.
He refused to give any details on the announcement, who would be making it, or when it would be.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
It was put to him that it sounds like he was to quit, and that there would be speculation about why.
“No doubt,” he said. “But you shall have to wait and see.”
Pressed once more about whether he had definitely tendered his resignation, he said once again: “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
However, other sources have confirmed that Mr Roberts has resigned.
Mr Roberts was due to take up his post alongside other new members Sarah Havlin, Colin Kennedy and Frances McCartney. Anne Henderson was also appointed chairwoman of the commission. They replaced the previous seven-strong team.
Meanwhile, cross-bench peer Lord Kilclooney raised the issue of those with political links being involved with the commission.
Responding to a parliamentary question about the party links of its members past and present, he said the response recorded that one previous commission member [Donald McKay] was in the DUP and that another [the Rev Brian Kennaway] had once canvassed for the UUP.
However, it failed to note that the current outgoing chairman, Peter Osborne, had been a member of the Alliance Party for many years.
He said: “I don’t think anyone connected with any political party should be on that commission. I think it should be entirely impartial and independent of party politics.”
The Alliance Party said that neither individuals, Mr McKay or Mr Osborne, were political appointees.
Last night an NIO spokeswoman said she could not confirm the resignation of Mr Roberts.