Belfast Telegraph

Nothing shady in Nelson McCausland meeting DUP-backing firm Turkington Holdings, party aide Stephen Brimstone insists

BY JACK BRENNAN

A senior DUP adviser has told MLAs that there was "nothing shady or nothing dodgy" regarding a controversial meeting between a double glazing firm and the Social Development Minister.

Stephen Brimstone, who advises Nelson McCausland, was giving evidence to the social development committee at Stormont.

Late last year the committee heard how Mr McCausland had ordered a senior civil servant to change his notes about a business meeting concerning Housing Executive contracts.

The changes obscured the fact that the DUP minister had met with Turkington Holdings – a company whose owner, Trevor Turkington, has publicly supported the party.

Instead the note, which was sent to Stormont's social development committee, stated that the meeting in April 2012 was with the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF), a professional body.

Although Turkington Holdings is a member of the federation, it never claimed to represent it.

Last month Mr McCausland apologised to committee members for "inadvertently misinforming" them.

Yesterday, the committee was told how Mr Brimstone initially met members from Turkingtons, who wanted to meet with Mr McCausland.

However, Mr Brimstone believed that the group wanted to have discussions as part of the Glass and Glazing Federation, not Turkington.

Mr Brimstone told the committee: "I genuinely came out of that meeting thinking that a letter was going to be sent to the minister from the Glass and Glazing Federation."

However, when the letter arrived, it was a request from Turkingtons, not the Federation.

After the meeting took place it was initially recorded in departmental records as a meeting with Turkingtons, but later changed to a meeting with the federation.

Yesterday's committee heard from Barbara McConaghie, who used to work in Mr McCausland's department. She told the hearing that she had changed the records. Under questioning from TUV MLA Jim Allister, she said: "I made the changes."

Mr Brimstone said that it was not his role to ask Ms McConaghie to change departmental records.

However, Ms McConaghie admitted that she would have been told by someone to make the changes, but she could not remember who it was.

She said she "would have made it under instruction, at this point I can not recall who gave the instruction to change that".

Mr Brimstone was also asked if he knew that Turkingtons had supported the DUP in the past. He said: "I am not aware who the DUP financiers are or who the supporters are."

East Antrim MLA Sammy Wilson proceeded to question Mr Brimstone, who said there was "nothing shady or nothing dodgy" about the meeting with Turkingtons.

Under questioning from SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, Mr Brimstone said that he had suggested changes to a letter from the minister to the committee.

The committee will reconvene in two weeks.

Further reading

DUP aide Stephen Brimstone yet to apologise to councillor Jenny Palmer over Red Sky row

Red Sky whistleblower Jenny Palmer keeps her housing board role

Red Sky, red faces and the nightmare of privatisation

Chamber of secrets needs to reveal its party donors

Probe urged after DUP accused of meddling in housing contracts row 

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