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DUP whistleblower Jenny Palmer was promised apology... now she faces party expulsion

Councillor accused of bringing party into disrepute

By Noel McAdam

A DUP whistleblower is facing disciplinary action from her own party, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Jenny Palmer is being accused of bringing the party into disrepute after telling a Stormont committee she had been used as a "political pawn".

The long-running internal row centres on allegations that the party put pressure on Mrs Palmer to change her vote on the board of the Housing Executive.

The Lisburn councillor had claimed that party special adviser Stephen Brimstone telephoned her over the vote at the board which was considering extending maintenance contracts with the firm Red Sky.

Then months later - following a face-to-face meeting with DUP leader Peter Robinson - it was agreed that Mrs Palmer would receive a public apology.

But now it can be disclosed that she is instead facing an internal probe, which could result in her being expelled from the party.

She will have to face an internal disciplinary panel after she was critical of her own party at a recent Stormont hearing.

Mrs Palmer told the Assembly's social development committee in January: "Imagine your own party wanting to damage a party member's integrity.

"The only conclusion I can come to is the fact that I would have been used as a pawn in the game of politics, to say the sectarian card was alive at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive."

The Belfast Telegraph has learned the party has sent a recorded letter asking her to appear before a disciplinary panel on a date yet to be agreed.

Mrs Palmer has confirmed receiving the letter and said she has replied to it.

But she added: "I do not want to say anything further at this stage on what is an internal party matter."

The committee has spent several months investigating disclosures on a BBC Spotlight documentary over alleged political interference in the running of the Housing Executive.

Mrs Palmer told the programme that Mr Brimstone, who was special adviser to then Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, told her "the party comes first. You do what you are told. Otherwise there is no point in you being on the board". Mr Brimstone has challenged her version of events.

Mrs Palmer, however, also gave the committee details of a private party meeting summoned by Mr Robinson which she said also included Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson and resulted in her being offered a public apology.

At the hearing, DUP committee member and former DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson argued there were "quite contradictory... inconsistencies" in Mrs Palmer's testimony.

But she insisted she was telling the truth and said Mr Wilson had come close to trying to bully her. Mr Wilson said she had made no complaint at the time.

Mr Brimstone, who has also made several appearances before the committee, said he did not believe he had used the phrase "the party comes first, you do what you are told" to Mrs Palmer.

But he refused to answer questions about discussions within the DUP over the affair or an internal departmental investigation into his conduct. There was no further immediate comment from the party last night. "The party does not comment on internal matters," a spokesman said.

Mr McCausland, who has been replaced by Mervyn Storey in a ministerial shake-up by Mr Robinson, insisted it would have been futile to put pressure on a single party member to change her vote when there were 10 members of the Housing Executive Board.

And he also said he could not recall why a meeting of DUP MLAs had suggested a new company could rise from the ashes of the bankrupt Red Sky company.

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