The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on Wednesday night moved to defend its actions after two senior DUP figures called on its director to consider his position.
In an Assembly debate on Tuesday night which focused on Mairia Cahill’s allegations against Sinn Fein in the recent BBC Spotlight programme, the chairman of the Assembly’s Justice Committee , Paul Givan, questioned the position of Barra McGrory.
Mr McGrory, who counted senior republicans including Gerry Adams among his clients while a solicitor, has made clear since his appointment as the Director of Public Prosecutions three years ago that he would play no role in any decision relating to individuals who in the past he represented.
Mr Givan told the Assembly: “This party will not stand for any whitewash which, I believe, is being engaged in by the PPS. It is of concern to me, given the role that the current director of the PPS had in representing senior republicans, that he has to step aside repeatedly because of that conflict of interest.
“The handling of this case in respect of Gerry Adams concerns me, and I believe that it calls into question his credibility.”
He added: “I believe that Barra McGrory, given how the previous case was handled and his conflicts of interest, should consider his position as the director of the PPS.”
Later, former DUP minister Edwin Poots said that Mr McGrory’s refusal to publish a report into the Sinn Fein president “causes us deep concern”.
He added: “As Mr Givan rightly pointed out, if the director has to keep stepping aside from issues, perhaps he needs to consider whether he is the right man for the job.”
In a statement, the PPS said that it takes all of its decisions “independently and without fear or favour”.
It said that prosecutors do not “consider issues such as membership of a particular political party or any other political sensitivities in [their] decision-making process.
“It is also rigorous in ensuring that there can be no potential for bias in its processes, this includes ensuring that where there may be the possibility of a conflict of interest, this is declared by relevant staff and they recuse themselves from participation in such cases or decision-making processes.”
The PPS said that Mr McGrory had established two independent reviews into concerns about particular PPS decisions and added: “Both of these reviews are due for publication in the spring of 2015.”