Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Stormont probe into the Brian Crowe scandal that rocked UUP

Brian Crowe.
Brian Crowe, letting it all hang out
Brian Crowe, letting it all hang out

The Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) has announced an independent review into the behaviour of Brian Crowe.

The review will investigate whether the sacked special adviser’s “influence was inappropriate at any time during his employment in the department”.

DEL Minister Danny Kennedy made the announcement more than a week after he publicly sacked Dr Crowe following revelations that he had abused his position for sexual favours.

“It is vital that public confidence is maintained in the integrity and transparency of Government,” Mr Kennedy said. “To that end, I am today commissioning an independent review of the policy development and decision-making involving my former special adviser whilst he was employed by the department.”

The former UUP head of policy was appointed special adviser in January 2010 when Reg Empey was the DEL Minister.

Danny Kennedy, on the advice of Sir Bruce Robinson, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, has appointed Mr Pat Toal to undertake the investigation.

The review will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by the end of June when its findings will be presented to the permanent secretary at the department.

However, prior to the announcement of the review, Dr Crowe issued a statement claiming that his boasts of abusing his position for sexual favours were just “fantasy chat”.

Dr Crowe was a key figure for many years in the Ulster Unionist Party, rising to the position of head of policy.

However his apology yesterday was greeted by silence from the party, which had already distanced itself from him. When the allegations first surfaced, UUP leader Tom Elliott said it was a matter for DEL and that he was no longer a member of the party.

This was a technicality based on the fact that Dr Crowe’s membership subscription had lapsed on December 31.

However, under Dr Crowe’s direction, the Ulster Unionists made their controversial link-up with the Conservative Party before last year’s General Election, which saw them lose their only MP, Lady Hermon, who was re-elected as an independent.

He was also policy adviser to Jim Nicholson’s successful European election campaign.

The 40-year-old was widely regarded in Ulster Unionist circles as the intellectual might of the party, to the extent that his colleagues nicknamed him ‘Brains’ Crowe.

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