Northern Ireland news

Council chief Anne Donaghy says apology to Irish language group 'forced act of penance'

Mid and East Antrim chief executive Anne Donaghy has said she will not make a public apology to an Irish language group

A COUNCIL chief executive has claimed that making a verbal apology to an Irish language group would be a "forced act of penance".

An independent report recommended that Mid and East Antrim chief executive Anne Donaghy apologise for risking "reputational damage" to Conradh na Gaeilge (CnaG).

The group had made a formal complaint following inaccurate comments Ms Donaghy made at a council meeting earlier this year.

It strongly rejected claims by Ms Donaghy that she had contacted CnaG and arranged a meeting but it had failed to turn up.

The independent report recommended that Ms Donaghy "read out a statement at a public council meeting" to acknowledge her comments "may have inadvertently misled council and that she apologises to council and to Conradh na Gaeilge".

However, Ms Donaghy has told a Sinn Féin and an SDLP councillor she has no plans to make a public apology.

In letters to councillors Patrice Hardy and Declan O'Loan, she wrote: "I do not believe it would be judicious to set a precedent whereby council officers would, or should, be compelled to provide verbal public apologies.

"Redress should be to the benefit of the complainant and not a forced act of penance."

Ms Donaghy said the council had only agreed that she write to CnaG to acknowledge the report's findings and provide the language group with a copy.

"I have completed the action agreed by council," she wrote.

Ms Hardy said Ms Donaghy's response "simply adds insult to injury".

"She has refused to do the right thing herself so the independent report has made the recommendation for her," she said.

"It is appalling that a council chief executive feels she can thumb her nose at due process and I will now be referring this matter to the public services ombudsman."

Mr O'Loan said the council's policy and resources committee did "not endorse the chief executive's decision to ignore the finding of the independent investigation".

"I am shocked at the chief executive's description of a simple apology as being 'a forced act of penance'," he said.

"The chief executive has lost all sense of professional judgement in this matter in my view."

He added: "I intend to take up this matter with the ombudsman and the Local Government Staff Commission who supply names of persons to do independent investigations".

The Irish News reported last week that the complaints probe against Ms Donaghy cost ratepayers £1,400.

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