Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

John McCallister hits out as NI21 halts party probe

Speaking out: John McAllister
Speaking out: John McAllister

N121's deputy leader has slammed the decision to halt an investigation into leader Basil McCrea's alleged sexual impropriety with party staff.

It emerged last night that an investigation into the allegations, which was being carried out by mediation firm Carecall, has been stopped, reportedly because party chairperson Jane Howson did not give her permission for it to continue.

John McCallister called for the probe to be carried out into allegations of Mr McCrea's inappropriate behaviour against Ashleigh Murray (23) and others.

Mr McCrea strongly denies the accusations.

On polling day last month Mr McCallister asked Mr McCrea to step aside while the investigation took place.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr McCallister said: "The report was only partially complete when it was called off.

"I would welcome the process to continue, but it is not within my power to do that.

"The only one who holds that power is Jane Howson, who was appointed chair by Basil McCrea.

"Apparently, Carecall received legal advice to call the investigation off because they needed the permission from Jane.

"Jane withheld this permission, and so the report cannot go ahead.

"I have laid down my political career to do the right thing.

"This is too important not to see through to a conclusion.

"If an MLA like myself is struggling to get light shed on alleged issues like this, what message does this send to other vulnerable people thinking about speaking out?

"There is a great deal of public interest in this issue now.

"I can only hope that Jane will do the right thing and allow the report to continue."

Ms Murray and a number of other N121 staff members now plan to take their allegations against Mr McCrea to the Assembly Standards Commissioner, Douglas Bain.

Mr McCallister said: "I commend them for their courage in bringing these allegations to the forefront.

"We as a society must find a way to get these allegations dealt with."

The party hit the headlines for another reason shortly before news of the allegations broke last month when it emerged N121 had changed its political designation from 'unionist' to 'other'.

Mr McCallister claimed that this was an attempt to derail and distract from the allegations against Mr McCrea.

The infighting badly affected the party at the recent polls, withjust one party councillor elected.

Senior members of the NI21 executive resigned, including high profile member Tina McKenzie.

Neither Mr McCrea nor Jayne Howson were available for comment on the state of the probe last night.

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