Northern Ireland

Gilligan faces call to step down during police probe

Barry Gilligan
Image caption Barry Gilligan's home has been searched

Policing Board chairman Barry Gilligan is facing a call to step down indefinitely until a police investigation is completed.

On Monday, the police searched an office at Policing Board headquarters and the home of Mr Gilligan.

This was part of an investigation into a housing site in Belfast involving Big Picture Developments, which lists Mr Gilligan as a director.

Mr Gilligan said he has been co-operating fully with the investigation.

He also said he "will voluntarily meet the PSNI in the coming days" and hopes to return to his position as policing board chairman as soon as possible.

Mr Gilligan said he will seek the support of his colleagues on the board for his position when it meets early next month.

However, Mr Gilligan is facing a call to step down indefinitely until the police investigation is completed.

Investigation

DUP Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said: "Well I consider that if it was a police officer being investigated that's what would happen.

"And I think that, on a voluntary basis would be the appropriate way, the appropriate action for someone to take in that position."

UUP Policing Board member Basil McCrea said there should be a special meeting to discuss Mr Gilligan's position.

He said: "And it is important to stress that in no way colours or prejudices what's going on this is purely a matter for the board, you know to work out what is in the public interest, what is the right way forward for us and hopefully in a way that satisfies all concerns."

Statement

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Gilligan said he was confident both he and the company would be vindicated.

He said: "My fellow directors and I have made, and continue to make, ourselves and our company files totally available to the PSNI in order to clear matters up as speedily as possible, confident that we will be completely vindicated.

"To that end, I will voluntarily meet the PSNI in the coming days at a mutually convenient time."

Mr Gilligan said he had to take temporary leave as chairman of the Policing Board due to impending heart surgery and had hoped to return before the end of the summer.

"But in light of the recent activity by the PSNI, my coronary condition and the dignity of the office of chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, I feel that I should not return to the role at this time," he said.

The Housing Executive called in the police to investigate its own role in the development site at Nelson Street in north Belfast five months ago.

In a statement, the PSNI said: "Searches have been conducted in Belfast as part of an investigation into matters concerning development land at Nelson Street in Belfast city centre.

"A number of items have been removed for examination from an office and a house."

A spokeswoman for the Policing Board said it could confirm that a search was carried out as part of an ongoing investigation.

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