Belfast Telegraph

Cash for Sterling event cancelled by Twitter and Facebook

Pay-to-meet Northern Ireland civil service head event held in Belfast hotel

Social media pressure has resulted in a pay-to-meet the head of the Northern Ireland civil service event being cancelled.

The event had been organised for Monday.

The organiser said businesses and charity and some which "don't fall into those categories" were to attend the event, each paying £86 to meet the man who is essentially running Northern Ireland in the absence of the devolved institutions.

It was to last 90 minutes at a Belfast hotel.

On Monday morning's Stephen Nolan show, it revealed Mr Sterling did not know money was involved with a spokesman saying Mr Sterling thought it "right" it should be cancelled.

The Executive Office also said none of the cash generated was to go to Mr Sterling and he had agreed to attend as “part of his role to explain the wider challenges the public sector finds itself facing”.

Publicist Terry McErlane who organised the event said he alone took the decision to cancel. He told Stephen Nolan: "In light of comments made on Facebook and Twitter I took the decision to cancel the event this afternoon."

He said the event was openly publicised and open to anyone.

"These comments gave the suggestion of some sort of impropriety about the event. I've informed Mr Sterling of my decision.

"We are disappointed that what would have been an interesting and educational event for business and charities has had to have been postponed.

"To be clear anyone who has paid for the event will be fully refunded."

Mr McErlane said it was a "simple invitation" to the head of the civil service which secured his attendance for the event.

"There was a suggestion of impropriety which could not have been further from the truth, there was nothing improper," he said.

"There was a well of people on Facebook and Twitter who were trying to link the event to other events. They were questioning my integrity and they were making comments about Mr Sterling.

"This was an opportunity to better understand what the civil service do... about the pressures and needs of sectors in society."

An Executive Office spokesperson said: “In his role as Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling engages with a wide variety of stakeholders, including through briefings, meetings and speaking events, to represent the NICS and explain the challenges we face.”

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