Ex-police board chief slams probe
The former chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Board has revealed the devastating impact on his life after he was forced to stand down because of a major investigation into corruption allegations.
Barry Gilligan, 60, a Belfast developer, was cleared when the office of the Public Prosecution Service confirmed there was insufficient evidence against him to prosecute.
He said: "The damage caused by this investigation to my personal life, reputation, business interests and public standing has been incalculable, and the effect on my health has been profound.
"For three and a half years I have had to suffer the ignominy of baseless, malicious rumour and innuendo. My reputation and character have been very publicly maligned by ill-informed commentators."
A Dublin-based business associate, as well as an accountant working for his company, Big Picture, and a senior housing official who was suspended after the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) called in the police to launch an investigation, have also been cleared.
The inquiry centred on the purchase and plans to develop land at Nelson Street, north Belfast. Mr Gilligan had applied to build more than 200 apartments. The Executive initially opposed the commercial scheme, insisting the land was designated for social housing, but then changed its position, with one official writing to planners "withdrawing the request for social housing at the scheme".
It was at this stage the police inquiry was launched to investigate the Executive's role in the planning process.
The Executive's original position of opposition to the development was reinstated, but six weeks ago the Planning Appeals Commission upheld Mr Gilligan's planning application.
Mr Gilligan said: "The allegation underpinning this investigation was that we attempted to persuade an official within the NIHE into withdrawing a request to the Planning Service to impose such an unlawful social housing condition. This fundamental allegation was clearly illogical, unfounded and contrary to common sense."
A statement from the Belfast office said: "Following very careful consideration of all the available evidence and circumstances surrounding this case, it has been concluded that the test for prosecution is not met as insufficient evidence exists to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction of any individual of any offence."