Belfast Telegraph

SDLP calls for halt to water probe ‘whitewash’

The SDLP has called for the independent inquiry into the burst pipes crisis to be suspended, saying it had lost all credibility after the Commissioner for Public Appointments raised concerns about the roles of the two investigators.

It has now emerged that both investigators tasked with examining Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy’s role during the Christmas crisis were considered for senior positions at NI Water.

Phil Holder and Heather Moorhead were appointed by the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister to conduct an inquiry into how Mr Murphy and his department handled the affair.

Mr Holder was interviewed for the interim chairmanship of NIW, but subsequently rejected by Mr Murphy.

Now a BBC Freedom of Information request to Public Appointments Commissioner Felicity Houston has revealed Ms Moorhead’s name was also submitted as a potential interim director.

In a letter from Ms Houston to Mr Holder and Ms Moorhead, she said: “Although your appointment is not regulated by me it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to this situation. I believe that once this information is in the public domain, it may undermine your perceived independence, or the ‘external' nature of your review.”

SDLP regional development spokesman Conall McDevitt MLA said last night: “How are consumers, tens of thousands of whom were without water for days, to have any confidence in this review now that it transpires there are questions about the reviewers’ independence?

“It smacks of a whitewash, a report commissioned by the First and Deputy First Ministers with the support of the Minister for Regional Development to cover up for gross political ineptitude and a total lack of leadership.

“I am calling on the First and Deputy First Ministers to suspend this review process.”

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