A claim that a senior NIO civil servant was paid compensation for offence caused by a portrait of the Queen “demands a full explanation” from the government, Jim Allister has said.
The TUV leader was commenting after the News Letter published the claim made by Lord Maginnis in Parliament, that Lee Hegarty – who was later promoted to become secretary and accounting officer of the Parades Commission – had received a £10,000 payout in a case “shrouded in secrecy”.
Addressing the Lords, the unionist peer urged the NIO to “restore the original portraits of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh,” and said Mr Hegarty ”must now be compromised in his position in the Parades Commission because of his bigoted stance over the Royal Family”.
The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP contrasted what he said had happened with the civil servant to the years of delay in compensating victims of historical institutional abuse, who Lord Maginnis said had been “shamefully left out in the cold when it comes to their justifiable claims for compensation”.
He added: “This is scandalous. It is an indictment of the Northern Ireland Office and of this government. We have lost all sense of reality when a portrait of Her Majesty can cause offence to a civil servant but we do not bat an eyelid when we deny closure and justice to unfortunate people who have been abused in the most outrageous manner imaginable.”
Mr Allister said: “Given Mr Hegarty now holds a senior position in the Parades Commission, there is a strong argument for absolute clarity on this matter.
“How can unionists have confidence in his ability to be impartial when it comes to parading if he was so opposed to the culture and identity of the British people of Northern Ireland that he couldn’t stand seeing portraits of Her Majesty and Prince Philip?”
Mr Allister added: “If what Lord Maginnis said proves to be accurate, my view is that it is imperative that Mr Hegarty is removed from the already discredited Parade Commission immediately.”
When asked about what Lord Maginnis had said, the Northern Ireland Office said in a brief statement: “We will not comment on individual personnel matters.”