Belfast Telegraph

Charter NI chairman Drew Haire steps aside

Health concerns rather than media scrutiny to blame for departure says Mr Haire

Charter NI board chairman Drew Haire has resigned from his role citing health reasons.

Charter NI has been embroiled in controversy after it was awarded £1.7million in public funds. Its chief executive - the self-confessed UDA leader Dee Stitt - then appeared in an interview with The Guardian in which he described his North Down Defenders flute band as "homeland security" protecting his territory "from anybody".

Stitt apologised to the Charter NI board and received a final written warning for the remarks.

Most recently, police claimed people connected to the ex-prisoners' organisation are UDA members involved in paramilitary activity.

However Mr Haire has said he is stepping aside for health reasons but admitted the past while in the public eye had been tough.

He said: "I've retired rather than resigned. The reason is for health reasons and I don't want people to think 'what's wrong with him'.

"I've been diabetic for quite a number of years and recently I've had a number of consequences of being a badly behaved diabetic.

"I enjoy a lot of attention and support from the health service.

"I just felt that that amount of time that's taking and the amount of time I would give to Charter - that the two things don't fit together."

Mr Haire was speaking to the BBC's Stephen Nolan show where he previously said he was concerned the recent publicity surrounding the organisation has detracted from its good work.

On Wednesday Mr Haire said the intense media scrutiny had been "challenging" but that it was not the reason he was stepping down.

"I can't deny that for a good past of 9 months there was a lot of attention and time required answering questions.

"But that does have wearying affect on everyone and has had a challenge on the staff in the organisation.

"Genuinely my decision is related to the fact that as I've explained I need time to fulfill my health appointments."

He added: "All of that period of time was a big challenge.

"My personal experience, what I've been involved in in the past hasn't prepared me for the level of media attention that came the way of Charter.

"In recent months the amount of time I've had to spend going to hospital appointments has been a bit more than was the case before."

Mr Haire, a former head of the Community Relations Unit with the Office of First and deputy First Minister, wished the organisation well in the future.

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