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Outrage as DUP spad gets promoted to OFMDFM

Nelson McCausland appears before the social development committee last year

The DUP's decision to give controversial special adviser Stephen Brimstone a £92,000-a-year post in the first minister's office has been branded a "slap in the face for decency".

On the day a Stormont committee was heavily critical of former minister Nelson McCausland and his spad for their part in the Red Sky affair, the DUP gave Mr Brimstone a job in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

The DUP pair were at the centre of a Stormont committee's 18-month long probe into a phone call to DUP councillor and Housing Executive board member Jenny Palmer which sought to influence the outcome of a vote on maintenance contracts.

According to Mrs Palmer, who it is understood is being disciplined by the DUP, Mr Brimstone told her to "put the party first" and vote to extend Red Sky's multi-million pound contract with the Housing Executive.

The East Belfast-based company's contract had been terminated after concerns were raised about its work.

Stormont's Social Development committee found he and Mr McCausland acted inappropriately and sought to exert political influence on the board's vote. The DUP has rubbished the assembly's official report with the former minister claiming he was the victim of a "witch hunt".

Although Mr McCausland was sacked last autumn in a DUP reshuffle, Mr Brimstone kept his job at the Department of Social Development as an adviser to Mervyn Storey.

And in the latest reshuffle earlier this week, Mr Brimstone was promoted to OFMDFM where he replaces recently-elected Westminster MP Gavin Robinson.

Last night Social Development committee member Dolores Kelly said his promotion was a "slap in the face for decency and probity in government".

"It comes as the Social Development committee has found that he, acting for the minister, behaved inappropriately in trying to influence contractual matters in the Housing Executive – if this had been any other job Mr Brimstone would be facing severe disciplinary action not a handsome promotion," she said.

The Upper Bann MLA said the appointment reflected "typical arrogance from Peter Robinson".

"The failure of any of those involved to recognise the damage they've done and to resign has seriously impugned the political process here," she said.

"Instead the DUP has instigated disciplinary processes against Jenny Palmer, a woman who demonstrated courage and tenacity by refusing to be a part of the duplicity in the Red Sky affair."

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