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18/11/2016

First Minister Refuses To Support Calls For UDA Leader To Step Down

First Minister Arlene Foster has refused to support calls for UDA leader Dee Stitt to step down as chief executive of Charter NI.

On Wednesday, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called for Mr Stitt to reconsider his position in light of the reputational damage being done to worthwhile Social Investment projects.

Mrs Foster said she regretted that Mr Stitt had now become a "distraction".

She said: "This man is an employee of Charter NI and they have to deal with him as they see fit, it would be wrong for me to intervene in all of the different organisations that exist across Northern Ireland."

Charter NI was presented with a cheque for £1.7million from the Executive's Social Investment Fund (SIF).

In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Stitt said the government didn't care about Northern Ireland, however he has since apologised to the board of Charter NI. He was issued with a final written warning.
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SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said: "The review by the board of Charter NI into the conduct of its own CEO Dee Stitt was conducted without transparency and behind closed doors. When elected representatives try to ask legitimate questions, the door is slammed in our face. 

"This is a shameless exercise in back covering. The board of Charter NI is covering the back of its CEO Dee Stitt. The DUP continues to cover the back of self-confessed UDA boss Dee Stitt and Sinn Féin continue to cover the back of the DUP. Why?

"We are again calling on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to suspend funding to Charter NI until there is an independent review of the conduct of its CEO and all governance arrangements. Who has anything to fear from an independent review?"

Alliance Executive spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA said: "A self-confessed paramilitary commander not only being in charge of a community organisation but one which has recently received nearly £2 million from the public purse to fund its activities is not merely "distracting" but rather deeply concerning.

"It is disappointing the First Minister does not share this view. It poses a number of questions not only about her stance but the entire Executive's anti-paramilitary action plan, which continues to suffer major credibility issues."

(CD/JP)

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