Belfast Telegraph

Portrait of the Queen put back up in Stormont House after Secretary of State's intervention

The Queen attends the unveiling of a portrait by Colin Davidson as Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness look on
The Queen attends the unveiling of a portrait by Colin Davidson as Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness look on
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

A portrait of the Queen has been returned to the public area of Stormont House after its removal sparked a row.

The portrait was removed from the Northern Ireland Office's (NIO) Belfast base after it emerged that a civil servant had been paid £10,000 in compensation for being offended at having to walk past portraits of the head of state and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

It is understood Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith ordered a review into the issue after replacing Karen Bradley last month.

A source close to the Secretary of State said that he was clear that he wanted a portrait of the Head of State on display at Stormont House.

Mr Smith had previously proudly posed with a small picture of the the Queen in his office at Stormont House.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph a UK Government spokesperson confirmed that a portrait of the Queen is currently on display at the venue.

The spokesperson said it was on display alongside "a balanced set of images".

"A portrait of the Queen – our head of state – is on display in the public area of Stormont House alongside a balanced set of images celebrating and reflecting the work of the Northern Ireland Office," the UK Government spokesperson said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that she was "glad" the matter had been resolved.

"The Secretary of State has made the right decision but questions remain as to how the NIO allowed this situation to develop," she said.

"Deeply embarrassing for a UK Government department."

TUV leader Jim Allister said that the portrait should never have been taken down in the first place, but that he was delighted it was back.

"I would like to thank the Secretary of State Julian Smith for expediting the return of the portrait to its rightful place," he said.

Ulster Unionist Peer, Lord Rogan said that despite the portrait's return, there was still the question of why it was removed in the first place.

“I welcome reports that the Queen's portrait has been restored to its proper place in Stormont House. I am glad that some common sense has been applied. If, as it appears, this was due to the influence of Secretary of State Julian Smith, fair play to him," he said.

“It's a pity that the common sense which now appears to have been applied to this issue hadn't been on display in the first place and could have avoided the embarrassment heaped on the NIO.

“However it still doesn’t answer the question about why the Queen's portrait was taken down in the first place. I`ll continue to attempt to get to the bottom of this and why compensation was awarded.”

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