Northern Ireland news

Anne Donaghy ready for battle as she fields questions about decision to pull council staff

Mid and East Antrim council mayor Peter Johnston and chief executive Anne Donaghy appearing before a virtual Daera committee meeting
Connla Young

COUNCIL chief Anne Donaghy was a woman ready for battle yesterday when she appeared before members of Stormont's agriculture committee.

It was the first time the Mid and East Antrim council chief executive had given a public account of the decision to withdraw staff from border check duties in Larne port earlier this year.

As she joined the virtual meeting she was flanked by Mid and East Antrim council's DUP mayor Peter Johnston.

And the rising star of Arlene Foster's party proved to be a loyal lieutenant as the pair fielded questions on the controversy for almost two hours.

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A large TV screen also dominated the viewer's frame and at one point a film clip of a leading trade union figure was played to viewers as the pair sought to make their point about their decisions to remove port staff.

As the session progressed it became obvious that the PSNI were in the council leaders' sights.

Mr Johnston claimed he felt "badly let down" by the police and questioned evidence given to the committee by ACC Bobby Singleton last week.

He also claimed that Ms Donaghy "almost had to chase to the chief constable's office with a begging bowl" for a threat assessment.

The pair were taken off script several times by references to a letter sent by Ms Donaghy to the Cabinet Office earlier this year in which she raised concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Although appearing to be at ease the experience cannot have been a pleasant for the council chief who is more accustomed to being scrutinised by those in the council chamber.

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