DRD apology for sacked NIW director Declan Gormley

Declan Gormley Declan Gormley has received an apology from the department for regional development

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The department for regional development has settled a case taken by former Northern Ireland Water director Declan Gormley by apologising to him.

DRD will pay Mr Gormley's legal costs.

Regional development minister, Danny Kennedy, said the DRD "acknowledges that Mr Gormley was not guilty of any personal wrongdoing or misconduct.

"The department further acknowledges that his removal from office did not reflect adversely in any respect on his character or integrity."

Mr Gormley has accepted the apology. No damages are being paid.

In December, Mr Gormley won a libel case against Sinn Fein over press statements.

The statements were issued a year after the then minister Conor Murphy sacked him from the board of Northern Ireland Water.

Mr Murphy has criticised the apology, saying it had not been issued on his behalf.

"Danny Kennedy's response to recent legal cases displays a serious weakness as a minister and will have longer term implications both for ministerial authority and the ability to investigate allegations made by civil servants and others," Mr Murphy said.

"He has for reasons of political expediency and a desire to try and cause political damage to opponents set these issues and clear advice from senior legal figures to one side."

In a written statement to the assembly Mr Kennedy said: "Following the recent High Court case in which Mr Gormley was awarded damages against Sinn Fein, he had indicated that all that he wanted from the litigation against the department and the other defendants was an apology and the legal costs incurred in the case.

"In light of this statement I felt duty bound to ensure that this statement was explored with Mr Gormley's legal advisers.

"Following tough negotiations by both parties it was eventually possible to reach a settlement on the basis of an apology on behalf of the department and the payment of Mr Gormley's reasonable legal costs but without payment of damages."

The SDLP have called for an independent inquiry into Mr Gormley's dismissal.

John Dallat MLA said: "An independent inquiry is required to provide answers to the many unanswered questions.

"It is critically important that a thorough inquiry is conducted into the activities of the independent review team on whose recommendations Mr Gormley and his four innocent colleagues were dismissed".

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "I welcome the fact that the public have been spared any further expense.

"After the result of his libel action against Sinn Fein this outcome was both sensible and just. Mr Gormley is to be commended for settling in this fashion."

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