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Red Sky row: DUP fails to agree councillor's apology after five attempts

By Noel McAdam

The DUP's promised apology to one of its own councillors has still not been agreed - after five attempts.

All five drafts of the apology to Jenny Palmer have been handed to a Stormont committee which is probing claims that she was put under pressure by a party special adviser, Stephen Brimstone.

As the MLAs' probe continued yesterday, Mr Brimstone was accused of "taking refuge" in a lack of recall and DUP members of the social development committee were also charged with attempting to block the inquiry.

In his fifth appearance before the committee whose inquiry was sparked by an alleged Housing Executive scandal, Mr Brimstone said he could not remember where he had been when he telephoned Mrs Palmer.

She has alleged he told her "the party comes first - you do what you are told," in relation to a vote being taken by the Housing Executive board on extending contracts to the failed firm Red Sky.

The special adviser, who has challenged her version of events, also refused to answer a plethora of questions because he regarded them as 'internal party business'.

He would make no comment on a party meeting which First Minister Peter Robinson arranged between him and Lisburn councillor Mrs Palmer, at which Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson was also present. But after the meeting, Mrs Palmer was promised an apology which has yet to materialise.

TUV leader Jim Allister accused Mr Brimstone of "taking refuge in not being able to recall". Mr Brimstone replied: "It is three-and-a-half years ago, Mr Allister."

The TUV leader was also taken to task by DUP committee member Gregory Campbell for tweeting that Mr Brimstone had been 'OTR' - on the run - from the committee.

Mr Brimstone had been due to appear last week but was "unavailable" and sent in an apology and Mr Campbell asked if he had been offended since most OTRs were terrorists and murderers.

Mr Brimstone said he had not taken it very well and Mr Allister insisted: "I did not liken him to a murderer or a terrorist."

Alliance member Stewart Dickson said: "I lost count of how many times he said 'I am not prepared to answer questions on internal party matters'. The real question is - what is he hiding by his refusal to answer the committee's questions?

"Yet again, DUP members on the DSD Committee attempted to disrupt the proceedings."

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