Belfast Telegraph

News Corp Murdoch row mandarin Jonathan Stephens to head Northern Ireland Office

By Steven Alexander

A civil servant who was embroiled in controversy over links between the Government and media giant News Corp has been appointed Permanent Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office.

In April 2012 Sir Jonathan Stephens declined to back then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's account of his dealings with the Murdoch empire while being questioned by MPs. At the time the Murdoch company was trying to take control of BSkyB.

Mr Hunt was facing resignation calls after admitting his special adviser Adam Smith supplied News Corporation with information from inside Whitehall. He said the adviser's role as a point of contact for News Corp had been agreed with Sir Jonathan, then his Permanent Secretary. But Sir Jonathan repeatedly declined to confirm this to the Public Accounts Committee. It led to accusations of stonewalling.

The Leveson inquiry later heard Smith and News Corp lobbyist Frederic Michel had exchanged hundreds of phone calls, text messages and emails.

Sir Jonathan was replaced at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2013, after delivering the London Olympics.

It will be Sir Jonathan's third stint in the NIO, and he said he was delighted to be back. He will replace NIO Director General Julian King, who will move to the the Foreign Office.

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