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HM Government department bans portraits of Queen in Belfast office



Portraits of the Queen have reportedly been removed from the NIO offices (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Portraits of the Queen have reportedly been removed from the NIO offices (Jonathan Brady/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Portraits of the Queen have reportedly been removed from the NIO offices (Jonathan Brady/PA)

An department of Her Majesty's Government has removed all portraits of the Queen from its Belfast office.

The Northern Ireland Office said it took its obligations under fair employment laws "very seriously".

It comes after it was revealed in the Lords that a senior civil servant received £10,000 in compensation after complaining he was offended by portraits of the monarch in his workplace.

The portraits were replaced with one of the Queen meeting the late Martin McGuinness.

The News Letter, on Wednesday, reports all portraits including the Queen have now been "banned" and taken down at its Stormont House headquarters.

One politician told the paper only landscapes adorned the walls.

A UK Government spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph: “The Government takes its obligation under fair employment legislation very seriously. We will not comment on individual personnel matters."

Earlier this month in parliament, Lord Maginnis said Lee Hegarty was paid compensation after he had allegedly claimed that under human rights laws it was unfair to him to have to work in a place where he was offended by such portraits.

Former Ulster Unionist MP Lord Maginnis said the situation had been "shrouded in secrecy" describing it as "quite a scandalous episode".

Sir Jonathan Stephens, permanent secretary at the NIO, described the story as "particularly unhelpful", reassuring staff they should be able to raise concerns without fear. He said they were investigating how the matter came to be revealed, in an email leaked to the BBC.

UUP peer Lord Rogan tabled a number of questions at Westminster seeking further answers from the NIO regarding the payout.

His questions include what criteria are used to determine which portraits are displayed or removed in the Northern Ireland Office and Assembly; whether the Government has received any reports that civil servants in Northern Ireland have been offended by portraits of the royal family in the NIO and if so, how many civil servants have made such complaints.

Lord Rogan has also queried whether any Northern Irish civil servants received compensation for offence caused by portraits of the royal family and if so, how many and how much compensation was awarded in each case.

The NIO has refused to addressed the questions.

Belfast Telegraph