Queen’s College has “paused” an honorary diploma it selected to award to somebody concerned in a Stormont scandal after questions concerning the choice had been requested by the Belfast Telegraph.
ast week, a person contacted us to precise concern on the college’s judgment in lauding former Phoenix Pure Gasoline chief government Peter Dixon.
Twelve years in the past, Mr Dixon had a key function within the NI Water scandal, prompting the one demotion of a everlasting secretary within the historical past of the Northern Eire Civil Service.
Mr Dixon was one in all three members of an ‘unbiased evaluate crew’ arrange by Paul Priestly, then the everlasting secretary of the Division for Regional Improvement (now the Division for Infrastructure) to look into alleged irregularities in how NI Water awarded contracts.
Not like the opposite members of the crew, Mr Dixon didn’t cost for his work, and it was alleged that he was mates with the chief government of NI Water, Laurence MacKenzie — a possible battle of curiosity due to the breakdown in relations between Mr MacKenzie and plenty of of his board.
NI Water administrators had been sacked on foot of the inquiry with which Mr Dixon was concerned, however subsequent proof noticed Stormont’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) increase severe questions on how the evaluate crew had operated.
When these points had been raised by three MLAs — Patsy McGlone, John Dallat and Daybreak Purvis — at a listening to of the PAC, Mr Dixon wrote a livid letter to the committee wherein he stated: “I deeply resent the disgraceful line of questioning by John Dallat MLA, Patsy McGlone MLA and Daybreak Purvis MLA, who sought to insinuate that there was an improper relationship between Laurence MacKenzie and me.”
He stated he was “appalled and upset” at what had been stated, and added: “I vastly resent the questioning on the PAC by the identical three MLAs which sought to impugn the professionalism, ethics and integrity of the members of the IRT. This was nothing in need of disgraceful.”
Mr Dixon made an specific risk to the MLAs who had been doing their jobs, telling them: “In closing, be assured that if I can set up that authorized proceedings are open to me, on a purely private foundation, I’ll don’t have any hesitation in taking them.”
Because it occurred, Mr Dixon’s authorized threats had been limp as a result of MLAs are lined by privilege after they converse within the Meeting. It later transpired that Mr Priestly had drafted the letter for Mr Dixon to ship.
The committee stated: “The truth that Mr Priestly — the principal witness and the individual required to set an instance to the numerous public officers underneath his course — had a job in getting ready this letter was totally disgraceful”.
Mr Priestly was subsequently demoted, though didn’t appear to lose financially, and Mr Dixon’s then chairman at Phoenix, Sir Gerry Loughran, wrote to the committee to apologise, saying that “the PAC members had been pursuing completely reputable questions…this was a correct line of questioning by the committee”.
He stated that Mr Dixon had felt “aggrieved” on the questioning, however that he needed to withdraw his letter of grievance.
When requested why Mr Dixon had been chosen for such an honour and whether or not he or anybody related to him had made donations to Queen’s, the college stated: “Peter Dixon was nominated for an honorary diploma for his companies to enterprise, schooling and charity.
“The honorary levels committee really helpful Mr Dixon’s nomination for approval by Senate, and it was ratified in March 2020.
“Because of private circumstances which have been mentioned between the college and Mr Dixon up to now week, it has been agreed that the awarding of an honorary diploma might be paused.
“Peter Dixon has not made any private donations to Queen’s College. Phoenix Pure Gasoline is an industrial companion on the CASE-funded decarbonisation of warmth venture and has donated to a earlier Riddel Corridor marketing campaign.”
Mr McGlone, a type of attacked by Mr Dixon in his letter for doing his job, stated: “I might have thought that Queen’s College would have thought lengthy and arduous and researched to guarantee that those that had been getting honorary doctorates absolutely merited such a title.
“As a former member of PAC who sat by way of the total scrutiny of NI Water together with different colleagues, together with my late colleague John Dallat, I might have thought that somebody who conspired to subvert the scrutiny mechanisms of the PAC and its democratic accountability wouldn’t have met such standards.”
Phoenix Pure Gasoline declined to say how a lot cash it had given to Queen’s, describing the knowledge as “commercially confidential”. Nonetheless, it stated that it had “partnered with Queen’s College on two particular initiatives in a interval spanning over 20 years. Whereas the interplay with Queen’s College has been restricted, each initiatives have been a part of a wider accountable enterprise programme, aligned to core enterprise goals”.
It stated that it “participated in a lately printed CASE-funded examine, the main points of that are serving to to advance decarbonisation options for key sectors throughout the NI economic system. Phoenix had been additionally one in all many native organisations who labored with Queen’s College on a earlier Riddel Corridor marketing campaign”.
Mr Dixon was invited to remark, however on the time of going to press, there had been no response.