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Sport NI chair Brian Henning quits nine months early


Brian Henning has stepped down from role

Brian Henning has stepped down from role

Ian McAvoy

Ian McAvoy

Brian Henning has stepped down from role

Two of the most senior figures at beleaguered Sport NI have announced their resignations.

Chair Brian Henning said it was time to "pass the baton" to a successor. Vice-chair Ian McAvoy is also standing down.

Mr Henning's departure is nine months earlier than expected and comes after the organisation was building up after six months working at half-strength.

He was appointed for a four-year term in December 2012, and was in charge during the departure of two-thirds of the group's ruling board last year.

Mr Henning said: "I can confirm that I have stepped down from the position of chair, effective from March 31. Since my appointment, I have acted with total commitment, integrity and passion for the good of Sport NI and for sport generally.

"I regarded it as a great honour and privilege to lead Sport NI through both positive and more challenging times."

The development comes after Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said yesterday a confidential survey had confirmed major issues of concern and "an absence of leadership and direction from the board and management".

Ms Ni Chuilin insisted the situation had improved but admitted more work was needed. "Nearly a third of staff said they had been subjected to bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination, a situation which cannot continue," she added.

"The management of the grievance processes has been poor and there has been evidence which indicates that Sport NI's Dignity At Work Policy has not always been adhered to."

Ms Ni Chuilin also told how she had spoken to both Mr Henning and Mr McAvoy. "They both feel that the time is right for them to step down from their positions to make way for a new leadership team at board level," the Sinn Fein minister said.

She also thanked them "for the commitment and passion to the furtherance of sport and for their hard work and dedication".

The minister appointed Brian Delaney as interim chair and Dr Catherine O'Mullan as interim vice-chair, and is working to launch a process "so that substantive appointments as can be made as soon as possible."

"There remain a range of challenges ahead for Sport NI," Ms Ni Chuilin said. "They have, however, many committed, hard-working and resilient staff, and that gives me confidence looking forward."

A critical internal report into the organisation, which was created to promote sport here, pointed the finger at "the leadership, management and the culture in Sport NI". It later emerged there was a "culture of fear" in the quango, and there were claims 10% of the workforce had complained about treatment.

Chief executive Antoinette McKeown is currently suspended pending the outcome of grievance proceedings.

Belfast Telegraph