Quango board members agree directorship restrictions

editorial image

Former board members at the now defunct Northern Ireland Events Company have given pledges not to act as company directors for periods of up to nine years, it has been was confirmed.

The High Court was told undertakings were accepted from six of the representatives, while offers made by another four representatives are close to agreement.

An 11th respondent who did not participate in the case, Jasper Perry, was banned from holding any director’s role for eight years.

The Department for the Economy had sought disqualification orders against them over their involvement in a quango set up to attract showbusiness and sporting stars to Northern Ireland.

Proceedings followed critical reports into the oversight and running of the company which folded back in 2007.

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

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.

But alternative resolutions to disqualification orders were reached after all but one of the respondents signaled a willingness to give pledges not to accept further directorship roles for agreed periods of time.

Based on his role as NI Events Company chairman, the department accepted Mr Elder’s nine-year undertaking.

Five year periods offered by Mr Rodgers, Mr Clarke, Mr White, Ms Corr and Mr Haslett have also been confirmed.

Counsel for the department, Michael Humphreys QC, indicated that agreements in principle have been reached with Mr Lennon, Mr Clarke, Mr McWilliams and Ms Williamson.

They are expected to be confirmed at a further court hearing next month.

At that stage Mr Lennon, the chief executive of tourism marketing body Visit Belfast, and Mr White, who runs polling company LucidTalk, are set to seek leave to continue to act in those enterprises.

The court heard Mr Perry was notified about the proceedings but has never appeared.

Imposing an eight-year ban on him, Master Bell said: “That is an appropriate period of disqualification based on the evidence currently before me.”