Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Red Sky row councillor: DUP figures support me

Jenny Palmer
Jenny Palmer

The DUP whistleblower at the centre of allegations about political interference at the Housing Executive has claimed she has received support from leading figures within the party.

Jenny Palmer has personally thanked a number of senior colleagues including Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson and Health Minister Edwin Poots, adding that she has received huge support since her claims were broadcast five days ago.

The Lisburn councillor alleged she was put under pressure by her party to change her vote at a board meeting of the Housing Executive discussing its £8m-a-year contract with East Belfast company Red Sky.

That deal was terminated in 2011 amid numerous claims of overcharging and shoddy work.

Mrs Palmer also rejected allegations from senior DUP figures that the contract was scrapped because Red Sky was a mainly Protestant company.

The programme also alleged Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland abused his position and misled Stormont – claims which Mr McCausland strongly denies.

A Stormont inquiry has been set up to examine the issues, which will be debated today after the Assembly was recalled from its summer recess.

Mrs Palmer (54) has since said she stands by her allegations "100%".

Writing on Twitter, she revealed she has received support from within the DUP, including senior party figures.

She wrote: "For the record thanks to Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Minister Edwin Poots, Brenda Hale, Paul Givan MLA (and) many councillors from Lisburn for support."

And she paid tribute to the support from her husband John, himself a DUP councillor in Lisburn, and family members.

Mr Donaldson confirmed he had spoken with Mrs Palmer twice since the programme was aired on Wednesday evening.

The MP said he would be trying to resolve her concerns.

"I have met Jenny twice since the programme was broadcast to discuss her concerns, and I will be obviously working with others to ensure they are fully addressed," Mr Donaldson told the Belfast Telegraph.

Spotlight made a series of allegations about Mr McCausland, his special adviser Stephen Brimstone and First Minister Peter Robinson.

The Assembly will debate the BBC's allegations today, but there is anger after the DUP blocked a cross-party demand for an investigation into Mr McCausland's conduct.

They have introduced a blocking mechanism called a petition of concern which means any move to censure the minister is doomed to failure – despite having support from most other MLAs.

Mr McCausland rejected claims that the DUP is trying to stifle debate.

BACKGROUND

The Assembly has been recalled today to discuss claims made in a BBC Spotlight programme last week. It made allegations of political interference in the running of the Housing Executive, and also featured claims by Jenny Palmer, a Housing Executive board member and DUP councillor. She claimed she was pressured to change her vote at a meeting discussing the decision to axe a multi-million pound contract with Red Sky.

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