Northern Ireland

Sport NI: Internal problems 'not down to leadership failure, says Carál Ní Chuilín

Sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín
Image caption Carál Ní Chuilín said she "clearly and consistently dealt with issues" at Sport NI

Internal problems at Sport Northern Ireland have not been caused by a failure of leadership, Northern Ireland's sports minister has said.

Carál Ní Chuilín will meet staff at the organisation next week after its chair and vice-chair resigned on Thursday.

More than a third of staff claimed they had experienced bullying, harassment or humiliation, an investigation found.

But Ms Ní Chuilín said that "where problems have been identified, clear leadership has been offered".

Resolve

Sport NI is a public body that deals with sports development and is an arms length body of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Its chief executive, Antoinette McKeown, has been suspended while the investigation is under way and last year nine of its 14 board members resigned.

Image caption Brian Henning resigned as Sport NI's chairman on Thursday

Ms Ní Chuilín said there "very clearly was a culture of bullying" in Sport NI, but added she had put measures in place to resolve problems at the organisation.

"I think what's happened is that the conditions were such under my leadership that people came forward," she said.

Damage

"As soon as they came forward, I very clearly and consistently dealt with these issues.

"I have not only appointed new board members, I have started a public appointments process to try to give those board members support with new members.

Image caption Nelson McCausland said Sport NI is "clearly not" fit for purpose

"I have set up the structures in such a way that whoever is coming behind me won't have to deal with the mess, the reputational damage and challenges around the organisation."

Former culture minister Nelson McCausland said there is a "need to reshape and reconfigure the organisation".

Change

"We need something that is fit for purpose - clearly it's not at the moment," he said.

"The fact that nine board members resigned last summer was indicative of serious issues within the organisation.

"We've seen a total change at board level.

"We need to see now what happens at senior level within the organisation on the management side."

On Thursday, it was announced that Brian Henning has been replaced as Sport NI chair by Brian Deleaney and Dr Catherine O'Mullan has replaced Ian McAvoy as vice-chair.

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