Northern Ireland

Stephen Brimstone appears before DSD committee

Stephen Brimstone
Image caption Mr Brimstone initially met members of the firm who wanted to meet Mr McCausland

A DUP special adviser has told MLAs that there was "nothing shady or nothing dodgy" regarding a meeting with a double glazing firm or the way the meeting was recorded by officials.

Stephen Brimstone advises Housing Minister Nelson McCausland.

He was giving evidence to a Stormont committee.

It is investigating allegations broadcast in a BBC Spotlight programme about political interference in the running of the Housing Executive.

Much of this inquiry has centred on a meeting with a double glazing firm called Turkington.

The committee was told the company have in the past supported the DUP at election time.

Mr Brimstone initially met members of the firm who wanted to meet Mr McCausland.

He thought they wanted to have discussions as members of the Glass and Glazing Federation.

He told the Department for Social Development (DSD) inquiry: "I genuinely came out of that meeting thinking that a letter was going to be sent to the minister from the Glass and Glazing Federation."

However, when the letter arrived in the Department for Social Development it was a request from Turkington not the federation.

After the meeting took place it was initially recorded in departmental records as a meeting with Turkington - but it was subsequently changed to a meeting with the federation.

Barbara McConaghie, who used to work in Mr Causland's department, told MLAs that she had changed records of the meeting.

Questioned by the TUV MLA Jim Allister, she said: "I made the changes".

She added that she "would have made it under instruction, at this point I can not recall who gave the instruction to change that."

Mr Brimstone said that he had no role in asking Ms McConaghie to change departmental records.

Questioned by party colleague East Antrim MLA Sammy Wilson, he said there was "nothing shady or nothing dodgy" about the meeting with Turkingtons or the way it had been recorded.

The adviser was also asked if he knew that Turkingtons had in the past supported the DUP.

He told the committee: "I am not aware who the DUP financers are or who the supporters are."

In a question from SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, Mr Brimstone accepted that he had suggested changes to a letter from the minister to the DSD committee.

Last year the minister wrote to the committee saying he had met the Glass and Glazing Federation and not Turkington.

However Mr McCausland later apologised and said he had inadvertently misinformed fellow MLAs.

During the session, the DUP said civil servant Ms McConaghie had been badgered by some MLAs and they objected to the manner of some of the questions.

The committee will reconvene in two weeks.

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