AFTER a week of delay, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’s Stormont department last night revealed the political links of five men appointed to oversee the redevelopment of the Maze prison site.
The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) revealed that three of those appointed are DUP members, one makes donations to Sinn Fein and one has done some work for the SDLP.
OFMDFM announced the 11 board members of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation on Monday but broke rules on public appointments by hiding the name of the political parties for which several had declared, during the application process, that they had worked.
The following day, an OFMDFM spokesman claimed that it had not asked the appointees the name of the political party with which they were linked, something which it has now emerged did in fact happen.
When contacted by the News Letter on Tuesday, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, John Keanie, said that the department had broken a series of rules in not revealing information on the appointees’ political links, salaries and length of term.
He wrote to Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness to highlight the shortcomings but it was not until late yesterday afternoon that OFMDFM published the missing information.
At 5.50pm on Friday night — in the slot when departments often attempt to ‘bury bad news’ — the department released a statement which claimed that “due to an administrative error by departmental officials certain information relating to these appointments was omitted from the initial announcement”.
OFMDFM said that none of those appointed received their positions for political reasons. Nevertheless, legally applicants must declare relevant political activity in the last five years.
Of those who did so, three have worked for or are members of the DUP. Chairman Terence Brannigan is a member of the party; Jack Gallagher is a member, former adviser to Peter Robinson and assistant to MLA Alex Easton, and Paul Stewart is a DUP councillor.
Board member Joe O’Donnell is a former Sinn Fein councillor who “makes a small monthly donation to Sinn Fein”, and fellow board member Professor Tony Gallagher, Pro Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University, last year “helped to pack envelopes” for the SDLP for one hour.
Another board member, businessman Ken Cleland, “voluntarily disclosed that he is currently contesting proceedings commenced by DETI”.
Last night the BBC reported that the action is an attempt by DETI to disqualify him as a company director, which he will “robustly” contest.
Board members will be paid £5,000 a year for the part-time posts while the chairman will be paid £30,000.