BBC News

Charter NI's Dee Stitt sorry for 'anti-government rant'

image captionDee Stitt, pictured with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, had said the British government did not care about Northern Ireland

The chief executive of an east Belfast organisation given nearly £2m of public money has apologised for making a foul-mouthed attack on the government.

Dee Stitt of Charter NI, who is a leading UDA member, was the focus of criticism for remarks made to The Guardian.

In a statement, the board of Charter NI said it was "deeply disappointed with and greatly concerned" by the article.

However, it said it was "addressing this matter internally".

In The Guardian article, Mr Stitt described loyalist band North Down Defenders as "our homeland security" and said the government does not care about Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Executive awarded a £1.7m grant to Charter NI, a community-based organisation.

The money came from the executive's social investment fund.

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon said on Wednesday that Mr Stitt's position with Charter NI was no longer tenable and that "he needs to go as soon as possible".

"It is clear from the statement issued by Charter NI that Dee Stitt remains their CEO," she said.

"Their CEO needs to go, he needs to resign and there needs to be an immediate suspension of public money to Charter NI now, until there is a full, thorough and external investigation of all of their governance arrangements.

"The first minister and deputy first minister need to urgently make a public statement on this matter because if they don't it will be perceived that they are standing with Dee Stitt."

image captionSDLP MLA for North Belfast Nichola Mallon said Mr Stitt's position with Charter NI was no longer tenable

Analysis: Gareth Gordon, BBC News NI political correspondent

Pressure has been mounting on Dee Stitt since his controversial comments.

The DUP MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said it was his understanding that Mr Stitt had now stepped aside as Charter NI's chief executive.

But in a statement, the organisation referred to Mr Stitt as still being its chief executive, saying it was addressing the matter internally.

The board said Mr Stitt had expressed sincere apologies for his lack of judgement on this occasion and for the impact it had on the organisation.

Asked directly if Mr Stitt was still in post, a spokeswoman said she could not comment.

The DUP's, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said last week that if he was in charge of the organisation, Mr Stitt would not be in post.

"I would not have him as my chief executive in light of these comments," said the Lagan Valley MP.

image captionCharter NI, a community-based organisation in east Belfast, was awarded a £1.7m grant by the NI executive

He told the BBC's Nolan Show that any change to Mr Stitt's position was a matter for Charter NI.

Mr Stitt had previously challenged allegations that he was a UDA commander.

"To the best of my knowledge, none of these allegations has been supported by evidence being presented to the PSNI," he told the Nolan Show.

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