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Stormont standards commissioner appointed

US-born academic Dr Melissa McCullough takes up a post that has been left vacant since 2017.

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Dr Melissa McCullough is Northern Ireland’s new Commissioner for Standards (Stormont/PA)

Dr Melissa McCullough is Northern Ireland’s new Commissioner for Standards (Stormont/PA)

Dr Melissa McCullough is Northern Ireland’s new Commissioner for Standards (Stormont/PA)

Assembly members have backed the appointment of a new Stormont standards commissioner.

A motion approving the appointment of US-born academic Dr Melissa McCullough was one of the first items of business as the Assembly returned from summer recess on Monday afternoon.

Stormont has been without a Commissioner for Standards since Douglas Bain’s term in office ended in September 2017.

The long-running powersharing impasse, which saw Stormont placed in cold storage for three years, delayed the process of appointing Mr Bain’s successor.

Dr McCullough, who takes up the role with immediate effect, now has responsibility for investigating complaints around alleged breaches of Assembly Members’ code of conduct.

She has extensive experience as an academic in the fields of law, ethics and professionalism.

Moving to Northern Ireland from the United States in 1994, she has served as a ministerial appointed non-executive director for the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland for the last 11 years.

The married mother-of-three is currently a visiting academic at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

She is an assessor and chairwoman for undergraduate medical programmes for the Medical Council Ireland.

Dr McCullough also acts as a law and ethics specialist on the Clinical Governance Board at London healthcare company Synergix Health.

She has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences, a law degree, an MSc in Bioethics and a mediation certification.

Her appointment comes seven weeks after a retired Co Down solicitor who was originally earmarked to take on the role withdrew his name at the last minute.

A vote on the appointment of Paul Kennedy did not proceed on July 21 as scheduled after he had second thoughts on taking the job.

PA