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Controversial Stormont aide Stephen Brimstone quits £92,000 post for job in private sector

By Noel McAdam

Published 26/11/2016

‘Evasive’: Stephen Brimstone
‘Evasive’: Stephen Brimstone

A Stormont special adviser (Spad) who was at the centre of a political storm has quit his job, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed Stephen Brimstone had left his £92,000-a-year post to pursue a career in the private sector.

The DUP official was appointed a Spad to First Minister Peter Robinson after a Stormont committee accused him of attempting to obstruct its investigation into alleged political interference on the board of the Housing Executive. He remained in the post to work for Mrs Foster after Mr Robinson stood down almost a year ago.

Mr Brimstone was not available for comment last night.

The Executive Office issued a statement wishing him every success and described him as a "valued member of staff".

In its investigation three years ago, the Assembly's former social development committee said Mr Brimstone had been "deliberately evasive" in his answers.

He was the Spad accused in a BBC Panorama investigation of telling the DUP's then representative on the Housing Executive board, Jenny Palmer, to change her vote in relation to a contract involving maintenance firm Red Sky, which later went bankrupt.

In a phone call he was alleged to have told Mrs Palmer: "The party comes first - you do what you are told."

The committee also said he failed to provide complete accounts of meetings.

Mr Brimstone insisted he did not believe he would have said the phrases which Mrs Palmer - now an Ulster Unionist MLA - claimed he had used in the call.

But the committee said Mr Brimstone did not give MLAs "the information and assistance which (we) expected", while Mrs Palmer's evidence was "compelling, consistent and convincing".

The DUP promised Mrs Palmer a public apology after a face-to-face meeting between her and Mr Brimstone chaired by party leader Mr Robinson.

However, Mr Brimstone told the committee he could not give any details about the meeting because it was "internal party business". When he was promoted to Mr Robinson's office aftwerwards, Sinn Fein's Mickey Brady said Mr Brimstone had been "rewarded" while the whistleblower Mrs Palmer had been "castigated".

DUP committee members Sammy Wilson, Gregory Campbell and Paula Bradley, however, produced their own minority report that cleared Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland of any wrongdoing, defended both him and Mr Brimstone, and said the main report lacked evidence or credibility.

Yesterday a spokesman for the First Minister said: "Stephen Brimstone has left his post in the Executive Office to pursue opportunities in the private sector."

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