Northern Ireland

Charter NI: DUP Assembly speaker denies he had role in organisation

Robin Newton
Image caption Robin Newton was accused of failing to disclose a link to Charter NI which would compromise his impartiality as speaker

The Assembly speaker has apologised for not declaring his links to Charter NI, when ruling against an urgent debate on its funding.

Robin Newton, a DUP MLA, addressed Stormont about his relationship with the organisation, which received public money from the Social Investment Fund.

Last month, Mr Newton did not declare a link when he rejected an SDLP request for an urgent oral question last month.

On Monday, he denied being an adviser to the East Belfast community group.

However, he said he had offered advice in the past.

Charter NI has been at the centre of controversy after comments by its CEO, Dee Stitt, to the Guardian newspaper.

Image copyright Guardian
Image caption Dee Stitt is CEO of Charter NI. He is also a leading UDA member

The Social Investment Fund (SIF) was set up by the Stormont Executive to deliver social change.

On BBC's Nolan Programme on Monday morning, it was claimed that Mr Newton had been working for Charter NI in some capacity.

A post on the organisation's Facebook page from May read: "Congratulations to our advisor Robin Newton MLA in being re-elected to represent the people of East Belfast. A post that he works hard for and highly deserves."

At the time of the post, Mr Newton was a DUP MLA, but was later given the position of Speaker, a role which requires him to be impartial.

In his statement on Monday, Mr Newton said he dealt with the request from SDLP due to "time pressures" but apologised "unreservedly" for not delegating the issue to someone else.

Mr Newton said lessons had been learnt but he too had constituents to represent.

The SDLP and Alliance welcomed the speakers statement but called for more detail about his links with Charter NI.

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