Board members of failed events company in appeal to court

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Two former board members facing disqualification proceedings over their role in the Northern Ireland Events Company are to seek special permission to continue running other enterprises, the High Court has heard.

Despite indicating they will join others in undertaking not to continue as company directors for certain periods, lawyers for Gerry Lennon and Bill White outlined applications for leave to act in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Lennon’s request relates to his position as chief executive of tourism marketing body Visit Belfast.

Final resolution of the case is now expected to take place next month.

A Stormont department had been seeking disqualification orders against the one-time representatives of the Nothern Ireland Events Company – a quango set up to attract show business and sporting stars to the region.

In court on Thursday it was confirmed that all but one of the 11 respondents are prepared to give pledges as an alternative remedy.

Michael Humphreys QC, representing the Department for the Economy, said: “The draft undertakings have been circulated, the forms have been sent out and are awaiting signatures.”

He told Master Kelly that Mr Lennon has applied for leave to act, while a similar application from Mr White has been “intimated”.

Disqualification proceedings were brought after critical reports into the oversight and running of a body which folded back in 2007.

The 11 named in the papers are: Samuel Mervyn Elder, Jasper Perry, Gerry Lennon, Jim Rodgers, James Clarke, Thomas Alan Clarke, Paul Henry McWilliams, William David White, Aideen Corr, Victor Campbell Haslett, and Catherine Williamson.

Mr Perry is the only respondent not to have set out such a position.

Last year the NI Events Company’s former chief executive, Janice McAleese, was banned from acting as a company director for 14 years.

Her conduct had been heavily criticised in a report issued by the Northern Ireland Audit Office in September last year.

The Audit Office probe was also scathing in its assessment of oversight from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) for a body formed in 1997 to support major sports and music events.

It identified failures in the risk management process and in dealing with a whistleblower’s complaints.

Lawyers for some of those who sat on the NI Events Company’s board previously claimed they were being made scapegoats to deflect attention from civil servants who failed to provide proper scrutiny.

Following Thursday’s review, Master Kelly listed the case for an anticipated final hearing in four weeks time.