Northern Ireland news

Stormont committee asks Edwin Poots to explain process that appointed Loyalist Communities Council's David Campbell to Afbi board

LCC spokesman David Campbell. Picture by Hugh Russell

EDWIN Poots has been asked to explain the process that saw Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) spokesman David Campbell appointed to a public body.

The Co Antrim dairy farmer, who in the past week has issued two statements on behalf of the group that purports to represent the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando paramilitary groups, is due to join the board of the Agrifood & Biosciences Institute (Afbi) on December 1.

The rules for appointments to public bodies ask candidates to declare any political activity.

In the press release issued by Mr Poots’ department announcing the appointment of Mr Campbell and 10 other board members, no such declaration was cited for the LCC frontman.

Mr Poots’ department insists candidates provided a declaration of political activity and any potential conflicts of interest.

Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots

Mr Campbell, who previously said he was unable to speak to The Irish News “without authorisation”, has declined to confirm whether he made such a declaration.

The role of Commissioner for Public Appointments, which regulates ministers’ quango appointments, has been vacant since May following the sudden departure of Judena Leslie.

Stormont’s agriculture and environment committee yesterday agreed to write to Mr Poots seeking an explanation of the appointment process, following a request by SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone.

The Mid-Ulster MLA has described the LCC spokesman’s appointment as “baffling”.

“I asked for details from the department on the overall appointments process to Afbi, including that of Mr Campbell, to ensure that the public are assured of a fully open, fair and transparent appointments process,” the SDLP MLA said.

Fellow committee member Clare Bailey said: “Questions have to be asked about the process by which public appointments are currently being made when the office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland has been vacant since May.

“It’s vital that the public has confidence that such appointments are made fairly and impartially.”

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