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MLA calls for disclosure of email trail over failed PPE order

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Challenge: Paul Frew

Challenge: Paul Frew

Challenge: Paul Frew

A DUP MLA has challenged the Department of Finance to publish all emails relating to the announced order of personal protective equipment (PPE) from China via Dublin.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy stated in April that a "significant order" for equipment, including face masks and goggles, had been placed through the Irish Government from China.

However, the Sinn Fein minister later admitted that the order did not go ahead, citing "major economic powers" entering the "global race" for PPE.

Dublin's Department of Health later said that no joint order had been placed for PPE from China in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive.

DUP North Antrim MLA Paul Frew has confirmed that Stormont's finance committee had requested all emails about the order, but only some of the correspondence was released.

He said: "At the commencement of the Covid-19 lockdown, there was an urgency to obtain PPE for frontline workers.

"The Finance Minister and the deputy First Minister announced Northern Ireland was placing an order with Dublin for PPE from China," he added.

"However, within days it became clear that the order was not placed, nor was any PPE coming from China or Dublin for Northern Ireland.

"I have been seeking full disclosure from the Department of Finance about this failed order."

Mr Frew, who is the deputy chairman of the finance committee, said emails covering March 30 and 31 were not provided.

"With the deadline for reasonable time to respond approaching and having asked numerous times, the committee then received a letter from the minister stating the email exchanges on those dates related to volumes, products, specifications and pricing," Mr Frew added.

The Department of Finance said it recognises the important role of the finance committee.

"We will continue to work with them and respond to their requests," a spokesperson said.

Belfast Telegraph