NI Fire Service: Ex-chief says whistle-blower 'right to do it'

Fire and Rescue Service logo There have been three investigations into NI Fire and Rescue Service after whistle-blowing allegations

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The former chief of the Fire Service, Peter Craig has been defending his actions at the organisation following a number of critical reports.

Mr Craig denied he suspended former senior accountant Linda Ford for whistle-blowing when she reported financial irregularities at the service.

He told the assembly health committee on Wednesday that she was right to whistle-blow.

He said her suspension was related to a breach of data protection.

Miss Ford subsequently won £20,000 compensation after she took a case against the Fire and Rescue Service.

The former fire chief also defended his actions in relation to a Land Rover provided to the fire service by a sponsor.

He said that he acted in line with advice from his finance and procurement directors.

Safety issues

Peter Craig's then boss told him to return the vehicle as he had concerns that it could conflict with rules over procurement.

Mr Craig returned the vehicle to the public relations agency that had secured it from a car dealership.

He told the committee that after the fire chief Colin Lammey retired, he was content to have the vehicle returned to the service as it was useful in promoting safety issues.

The former chairman of the Fire Service, William Gillespie, challenged a report that criticised the board for awarding bonuses in breach of departmental rules.

He said the bonus awarded was not in breach of the rules as the amount paid out was was in separate payments below the £5,000 cap set by the department.

In 2008, payments were made to the deputy chief fire officer, Louis Jones, and assistant chief fire officers Peter Craig and Tom Wright.

The £15,000 figure was not disclosed as required in the 2008/2009 pay documentation.

Mr Gillespie told the health committee that four payments were made and because this was below the designated amount was not a breach of departmental rules.

He said he was therefore challenging the findings of the report presented to the assembly by the health minister.

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