Northern Ireland news

Watchdog drops probe into complaint against council chief executive

Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim council
Brendan Hughes

A WATCHDOG has dropped its probe into a council chief executive's refusal to say sorry after a report recommended she apologise for risking "reputational damage" to an Irish language group.

The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman decided not to take a complaint forward for further investigation following a review of Mid and East Antrim council's policies and procedures.

Conradh na Gaeilge (CnaG) made the complaint last year against Anne Donaghy in a dispute over inaccurate comments she made about the group during a council meeting.

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

An 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".

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However, Ms Donaghy refused to make a verbal apology, saying it would be a "forced act of penance".

She sent the report – which cost ratepayers £1,400 – to CnaG alongside a letter in which she acknowledged she may have inadvertently misled councillors and caused unintended reputational damage.

The council said the matter was "dealt with in line with council policy".

CnaG said they were "surprised and disappointed" the report's recommendations were not being fully met, and subsequently made a complaint to the ombudsman.

An ombudsman's office spokesman said: "The office assesses complaints on whether an investigation would be proportionate, achieve a practical outcome, or be in the public interest.

"Following an assessment of the council's policies and procedures, it was decided not to take this complaint forward for further investigation."

CnaG's Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin expressed his disappointment that the public services ombudsman "is unable to do anything to compel the council to implement those recommendations".

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