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Stadium expert's bullying claim dismissed by independent probe

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 17/12/2015

Unsuccessful: Paul Scott
Unsuccessful: Paul Scott

Allegations of bullying made by an expert who raised concerns about safety at a proposed new GAA stadium have been dismissed.

Paul Scott claimed he was put under "undue pressure" to approve plans for the revamped Casement Park.

An independent probe commissioned by the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) has now cleared officials of wrongdoing. A copy of the report, marked "official - sensitive" and obtained by this newspaper, found no basis for the allegations.

Casement Park is undergoing a £76million revamp as part of a Government commitment to upgrade outdated sports facilities.

The GAA wants to build a 38,000-seater stadium on the current site at Andersonstown Road in west Belfast.

In May, Sports Minister Caral Ní Chuilín ordered a full review of the redevelopment plan after concerns of a Hillsborough-style crush were raised by Mr Scott.

Ninety-six football fans were killed at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

Mr Scott, from the Safety Technical Group, said there were only two small exits at the planned new Casement venue and warned that if an emergency occurred, people could be crushed.

Mr Scott claimed he was put under "undue pressure" by government officials to approve plans for the new ground.

He alleged he had been left stressed and suffering from sleepless nights following bullying by DCAL officials. DCAL commissioned an independent investigation by John Hunter QC into the allegations.

He commenced his work in July and, over the course of a five-month period, he interviewed 14 people, received six written witness submissions and spoke to two other witnesses on the telephone.

In the conclusions to his report, Mr Hunter recognised that Mr Scott's concerns related to matters of considerable public interest, and recognised Mr Scott's expertise in such matters.

Mr Hunter sought to test the allegations of bullying against the definition of bullying as set out in the Northern Ireland Civil Service's "dignity at work" policy.

This refers to "persistent offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines his/her self-confidence and which may cause him/her to suffer stress".

Mr Hunter reported that the evidence provided by Mr Scott, who is referred to merely as "the whistleblower", to support his claims of bullying was "limited and largely general in nature".

It had not, he added, been independently corroborated by witnesses with the sole exception of a colleague in Sport NI.

In August, a report recommended that an independent person should be brought in to lead the Safety Technical Group (STG), which Mr Scott chaired.

The GAA wants to build a 38,000-capacity all-seated stadium including conference, bar/restaurant and community facilities at Casement.

Belfast Telegraph

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