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Red Sky: DUP promotes Stephen Brimstone, the adviser at centre of scandal

By Noel McAdam

Published 13/05/2015

Stephen Brimstone
Stephen Brimstone

A Stormont special adviser accused of attempting to block an Assembly investigation has been promoted to work with Peter Robinson, the DUP has confirmed.

Stephen Brimstone had been a Spad to Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey and his predecessor Nelson McCausland, who the probe charged with a "politically motivated" bid to extend the now-bust firm Red Sky's multimillion-pound contract with the Housing Executive (HE).

Deputy chair of the committee behind the investigation, new Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady, told the Assembly Mr Brimstone had been "rewarded" while the DUP whistleblower Jenny Palmer had been "castigated".

Mr Brimstone was the Spad accused in a BBC Panorama investigation of telling Lisburn councillor Mrs Palmer, a DUP representative on the HE board, to change her vote in relation to the Red Sky contract.

In a phone call he was alleged to have told her: "The party comes first- you do what you are told."

The committee said Mr Brimstone failed to provide complete accounts of meetings, and was "deliberately evasive in his answers to the point of obstructing the committee in carrying out its statutory function".

It said he did not give MLAs "the information and assistance which (we) expected", while the evidence of Mrs Palmer, a DUP councillor, was "compelling, consistent and convincing".

The committee therefore said it accepted Mrs Palmer's account of the phone call and concluded that Mr Brimstone was "inappropriately attempting to influence the board's discussions on behalf on the minister".

As first revealed in the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Palmer is now facing an internal party discipline, which committee member Dolores Kelly said was "astonishing".

DUP committee members Sammy Wilson, Gregory Campbell and Paula Bradley, however, produced their own minority report which cleared Mr McCausland of any wrong-doing, defended both him and Mr Brimstrone, and said the main report lacked evidence or credibility.

Mr Campbell attacked the BBC for refusing to give evidence to the committee and argued: "This committee wanted a scapegoat and that was Nelson McCausland."

But Alliance committee member Stewart Dickson said the report would leave the Assembly further discredited and was a story that "demands resignations".

Story so far

The DUP had promised its Lisburn councillor Jenny Palmer a public apology after a face-to-face meeting between her and special adviser Stephen Brimstone chaired by party leader Peter Robinson.

Mr Brimstone told the Department for Social Development committee he could not give any details about the meeting, which also involved Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, because it was "internal party business". There were five drafts of the apology, however.

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