Belfast Telegraph

Kennedy: I have not broken the law

A Stormont minister set to be referred to prosecutors over his refusal to hand over a report on a controversial railway upgrade has insisted he has not broken the law.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy was responding to a move by his Stormont scrutiny committee to report him to the Public Prosecution Service for failing to give the committee a copy of a costing assessment of works on the Londonderry/Coleraine line.

The overall cost of the upgrade project has almost doubled from an estimated £22 million to around £40 million because of changes to accommodate larger trains.

Mr Kennedy told the Assembly he was not giving the project assessment report (PAR) to the committee as a competitive tender process was continuing for the contract to complete signalling work on the scenic route.

"The DRD committee has made repeated requests for sight of the PAR report produced for the department in September 2014," he said during Assembly Question Time.

"The department has been consistent in its position - that it will share the report with the committee following the conclusion of the procurement process which is currently under way.

"However, it is not in a position to do so immediately due to sensitivity around the commercial confidentiality of the report. The scope of the review has been released to the committee already.

"There is, I should tell the House, an ongoing competition, and I have taken the view that the report should be released when the competition is complete and not before then."

The minister added: "I also want to stress that I have acted throughout on legal advice and I believe that I have not breached the law in any respect."

Earlier Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O hOisin said the DRD committee had "no option" but to refer Mr Kennedy to the PPS.

"The Regional Development Committee is there to scrutinise the work of the minister and hold him to account on the management of the department," he said.

"The committee requested a public assessment review into why the valuation of the Derry-Coleraine railway line upgrade came in twice the cost as originally forecast."

He said referring the minister to the PPS would "force him to live up to his responsibilities".

Ukip Assembly member David McNarry said: "The minister's failure to divulge information about the number of commercial expressions of interest there have been in building this rail link has led to serious questions being asked regarding the project, originally with an estimated cost of £20 million which has since doubled to £40 million.

"That should set alarm bells ringing. The weaknesses in the procurement process are already the subject of major public concern."

The upgrade is being carried out on a route that takes in some of Northern Ireland's most breathtaking scenery and was dubbed among the most beautiful in the world by steam train enthusiast and Monty Python star Michael Palin.


From Belfast Telegraph