Northern Ireland news

Police probe of controversy-hit council linked to alleged attempts to delete correspondence to DUP politicians

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council withdrew staff from Larne Harbour in February following alleged threats from loyalist paramilitaries. A police assessment later found there was no viable threat. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Staff Reporter

AN investigation of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is linked to attempts to delete correspondence to figures within the DUP, it has been claimed.

According to sources on BBC NI's Spotlight on Tuesday the police probe is focused on moves by employees of the local authority to delete a trail of correspondence to DUP politicians that was being sought through Freedom of Information requests.

Police raided the council's Ballymena offices in October, seven months after it removed staff from the port of Larne over alleged threats from loyalist paramilitaries.

The staff had been involved in post-Brexit checks at the port, and days before their removal the council's chief executive Anne Donaghy had written to the UK Cabinet Office to warn she was "extremely concerned" for staff safety following graffiti threats that appeared in Larne.

However, within days of their removal, staff were back at their posts after a written PSNI assessment that it had no information of a paramilitary threat.

Stormont's Agriculture Committee launched an investigation into the matter, as the Department of Agriculture had also suspended animal-based food checks by its staff at the port following the threat claims.

Ms Donaghy - currently absent from her role - had claimed her letter to the Cabinet Office had been confidential, but a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Live website found the letter had been circulated to eight DUP politicians.

Speaking to the Spotlight team, public law expert and London-based QC Gavin Millar, said: "It's very serious. For a public authority to be investigated by the police is very, very unusual."

MEA council has said it cannot comment on the issues raised in the programme due to ongoing investigations.

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