Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Now police probe TV investigation into Red Sky and DUP minister

Police are now examining allegations of political interference in the running of the Housing Executive, it has emerged.

Detectives are trawling the findings of a BBC Spotlight investigation which probed the DUP's links to Red Sky to determine if any of the claims raised in the programme broke the law.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris wrote to UUP leader Mike Nesbitt to say the review would be carried out "expeditiously" and any potential wrongdoing will be investigated fully.

Mr Nesbitt wrote to the PSNI after last month's Spotlight probe into the Housing Executive and its links to Red Sky, the now defunct east Belfast construction firm.

The programme alleged that Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland abused his position and misled Stormont.

It also featured an interview with DUP councillor Jenny Palmer, a Housing Executive board member, who claimed she was put under pressure by her own party to change her vote at a board meeting.

Mr McCausland has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

However, Mr Nesbitt said he was pleased the allegations were now being examined by police.

"I was pleased to receive that assurance from Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who has responsibility for crime operations. He has written to confirm the PSNI is undertaking a review of the programme," he said.

A PSNI spokesperson said: "Police are studying the BBC NI Spotlight programme which was broadcast on July 3. The purpose of the review is to assess whether the programme identifies potential criminality which may warrant a police investigation." Last month MLAs voted by 54 to 32 in support of a motion calling for an inquiry into allegations of political interference. The DUP blocked the motion.

Mr McCausland said he had no intention of stepping aside while the claims are investigated.

The day after the broadcast, the DUP released a strong statement saying the programme contained inaccurate claims and defamatory statements.

"The party has instructed lawyers to initiate action against Spotlight and a number of the participants on the basis of a series of inaccurate claims and defamatory statements contained within the programme. Such intolerable inaccuracies will be challenged using all available options and opportunities," it said.

The BBC confirmed yesterday that it has yet to receive any writ from the DUP.

Red Sky was stripped of a multi-million pound contract with the Housing Executive amid allegations of shoddy work and overcharging. Nelson McCausland called for the east Belfast company to be reinstated after he became Social Development Minister in May 2011. Despite the DUP's appeal, the Housing Executive's contract with Red Sky was axed two months later. The company had employed around 450 workers.

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