Northern Ireland

Sport NI chief McKeown 'still awaits' suspension reason

Sport NI chief executive Antoinette McKeown
Image caption Sport NI chief executive Antoinette McKeown was suspended from the position 17 months ago

The chief executive of Sport NI, Antoinette McKeown, has said she is still awaiting a formal explanation for her continued suspension from the post.

Ms McKeown, the first woman to be Sport NI's chief executive, was suspended from her role last March.

Last June, her union representative told the BBC she had been suspended due to "leadership issues".

On Tuesday, Ms McKeown told the BBC that she remained "in a process with Sport NI".

She was appointed as the head of Sport NI - the body charged with encouraging participation in sport - in June 2013.

'Lead change'

In March 2015, she was suspended from the post following what is understood to be a series of grievances being lodged both by her and against her.

She has remained in that position ever since, and the organisation currently has an interim chief executive.

In her first interview since the suspension, Ms McKeown told the BBC: "Seventeen months on, I still await a formal explanation for my continued suspension.

"I remain in a process with Sport NI and maintain confidentiality as a result, but it is my clear intention to return to work and I am fully focused on doing so."

She said she respected the process and the vast majority of Sport NI staff, and that she looked forward to leading them again.

"I was brought in to do a difficult task, to lead change in Sport NI, that's a task which I began and I intend seeing it through," added Ms McKeown.

In a statement, the Department for Communities (DfC), which is responsible for Sport NI, said: "The issue of the position of the Chief Executive is a matter for Sport NI as the employer."

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