Serious allegations emerge from MacKenzie’s early life in Scotland

What did Conor Murphy think this morning as he read his copy of the Scottish Daily Record? If Charlie Gall is right (and so far as Slugger understands, as yet there’s been no legal challenge to what are some very grave allegations), then the Minister not only trashed the reputations of four Non Executive Directors, in order to retain  Chief Executive who so spectacularly failed in the discharge of his duties over Christmas, but that man, whom his Minister fought tooth and nail to protect, now has serious questions to answer from his earlier life.

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  • JAH

    Give the man a chance.
    He screwed up as a lad, as many readers here have done.

    He was 21. So what’s he to do for the rest of his life, live off benefits and never have a chance to have a fresh start?

    Clearly this has no bearing whatsoever on his handling or not of the water crisis.

    And since the matter went to court he has no serious questions to answer . After 12 years your criminal record is cleaned and its no longer an issue.

    Not Slugger’s finest moment.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, I’m no fan of McKenzie, but when you consider what Conor Murphy was probably up to when he was 21 it pales in comparison. I believe he might have been in Jail at that stage?

  • Cynic2

    So who did the due diligence on the appointment?

  • Cynic2

    But I agree on the above points. Given it was so long ago, if this is true, he would have been regarded as rehabilitated I assume and it might even have been illegal to exclude him from appointment on this basis.

    And in any case, he has been clean since then we assume, perhaps he has put his past behind him and made a success of his life.

  • SimpsonInBangor

    This is a nothing story and should never have been published. The man committed a crime and the state has been satisfied.

  • Mick Fealty

    I agree too, which is one of the reasons I’ve tried to down play the headlines in the story. Also, I understand that Mr MacKenzie has been under considerable personal strain throughout this whole period. I would not want to add further to that.

    But look at this from the NED’s viewpoint. Their reputations have been traduced by an unjustifiable sacking brought to pass by a DRD Permanent Secretary who has since been suspended, on foot of a deal initiated by Mr MacKenzie himself.

    This story may not be directly germane to the detail of the current NI Water story, but I cannot see how we could ignore it.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Have to agree with Drumlins Rock here. Conor Murphy himself was in prison. Mr Kelly was too. Mr McGuinness. Mr Butler. Ms Anderson. Ms McCann and Im sure some others.
    If they can rise to an Assembly position then I dont have any problem with Mr MacKenzies past which seems very tame in comparison.
    The only problem arises if Mr MacKenzie was obliged to declare it. But if there was some kinda statute of limitations on disclosure then its no big deal.
    I might raise an eyebrow that there was a presumption that a man with an accountancy degree must have had a blameless past. And maybe Im a little surprised that a man convicted of embezzlement enrolled in and was accepted for an accountancy degree.
    Maybe Id look away from Mr Murphy and look at a “golden circle” of appointers/appointees.

  • DC

    Mick, I’m no fan of McKenzie, but when you consider what Conor Murphy was probably up to when he was 21 it pales in comparison. I believe he might have been in Jail at that stage?

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, you were right to post article as it was in the public domain, but I think if it had come another way I would not have broke it personally, what it has made me think about is who has been pulling the strings from the start? Murphy, Priestly, McKenzie or others yet unknown?
    I beginning to get the feeling McKenzie was simply a guy that got promoted too quick on the back of a few successes and when things got tough was about to pull out, but allowed himself to become a puppet of the DRD instead.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Again Drumlins Rock is right.
    And by the way are “allegations” still “allegations” when they have been dealt with in court. Mr Mackenzie seems entitled to believe that it is double jeopardy.
    Interesting perhaps that the Scottish Daily Record cannot deal with re-habilitation.

  • old git

    A new low for what is already a fairly charmless site. The only thing that seems to arise the natives interest is a bit of good old sectariansism, vide the Holy Cross thread.

  • Mick Fealty

    I am long overdue a recap on this story, which I will do either when I get time, or someone pays me to do it.

    Nothing in this story is simple black and white. But it seems it was MacKenzie’s idea to sack the Board (not Priestly, who was on this occasion the poor fool tasked with the job of carrying it out):

  • malairt

    You could do worse than to use the Pink Lady summary as a template.

  • Sean Og

    Talk about kicking a man when he’s down! 😉

  • IJP


    I’d say you should be stronger under pressure here!

    At age 21, indeed frankly at age 3, I was well aware that stealing thousands of pounds from a collection plate was rather more than merely “screwing up”.

    What the Minister was up to in 1982 is actually besides the point, because he was elected by the citizens (foolishly, in my view, but the electorate is always right…)

    MacKenzie, on the other hand, was appointed to serve the public. He was made the Accounting Manager for the organisation. As you say, he was then retained at the expense of four Non-Execs.

    There is a trail here of ignorance and incompetence which extends well beyond MacKenzie himself.

  • Mick Fealty

    old git,

    Read the glossary post on Fair Game.

  • Mick Fealty


    On the point of breaking it or otherwise, I am not sure I would not have done it either. But for very different reasons. The information contained in the story is clearly in the public interest, but standing it up took a well connected, and experienced Scottish journalist with sufficient links contacts and local knowledge.

    Here’s the Pink Lady’s account:

  • Given the financial settlement that was negotiated last week, this may be an opportune moment for Mr Mackenzie to make a retribution payment to the CofS to clear his name … and draw some kind of line under his regrettable 21 year old behaviour.

  • Pink Lady: “Mackenzie stood against them all.”

    If this is indeed the case, did he do so off his own bat or was he acting on directions from the Minister and/or senior DRD officials? The lack of proper notes/minutes from that September 2, 2009, meeting inhibits a fair investigation into the running of NIW.

  • Munsterview

    I have not commented in any detail on this debacle to date as I do not know the facts and I have more than a few water problems of my own for some weeks, pump and pipes have cost over €500 so far this winter in repairs and a way to go yet!

    I have however followed the emerging details of the story and as a summary the ‘Pinklady’ posting it seems to me is fairly apt. One thing that she said registered and I went back and checked the posting.

    This is part of her last comment “…Mackenzie was an auditor accountant with some good skills sadly promoted way above his skill set and grade..”

    I do not know if this is the explanation for the debacle but to any detached observer it is obvious that there are and were serious and ongoing problems within the organization. Where the various levels of responsibility rested for dealing with the problems should have been well designated.

    Once these levels are determined, responsibility should be taken by all concerned and let the cards fall where they will, be it in the administrative or political sphere! Down here in the public sector it is almost unheard of for an incompetent person to be dismissed, if they become an embarrassment, they are promoted upwards and sideways out of harms way.

    This is the ethos that have the Health Service administration the disaster it is. I know one case of Child Sex Abuse that cost the Health Board concerned millions and all that money was spend out because basic mistakes had been made at Social Worker level and from there the cover up involved everyone up to and including the Health Board manager concerned.

    The funds were spend, not on the victim but in protecting the system. I am in fact involved in another child welfare case at present, a baby of a drug addict was fostered to the fathers sister and family, no checks were done, the mothers parents, insisted on tests to determine paternity, the alleged father was not in fact the father, the child had in effect been placed not with family, but with unproved strangers.

    To date there have been over a dozen cases in the lower and higher courts with no limits to State spending as the Health Board concerned tries to protect it’s own personnel who failed to carry out basic checks and proceedures. Their latest move is to attempt to demonize the Grandparents, using State resources to do so, and prove them unsuitable as foster parents to cover up their initial gross incompetence in dealing with this case.

    Any surprise then our public services North and South are in the mess they are in, with this ‘public service’ ethos ?

  • Nunoftheabove

    I don’t necessarily think it’s relevant, assuming that he didn’t misdeclare it on his NIW job application (which probably only asked him to declare any convictions which weren’t ‘spent’…assuming that was he properly vetted at all, that is).

    £2k was quite a score 30 years ago though.

  • Neil

    I would have thought any previous criminal convictions would have been relevant. Bearing in mind he was some way clear of the age of criminal responsibility, I do think it reflects on him as an individual. Nicking sweets when you’re 13, that’s no biggy. Two grand aged 21, and from a Church to boot is, in my opinion, a fairly big deal. In light of this info I wouldn’t have him round my house anyway.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think stealing money is a very big deal.
    But in moving away from Scotland, he presumably removed himself from the presence of some who might well have remembered him as a 21 year old. Would he have been quite so successful in Scotland.
    I wonder whether his appearance on NATIONAL television after Christmas triggered some memories in Scotland. I wonder if one or more MLA was made aware of this in past week. Was an ambush planned at the Committee.

    Yet it amazes me that a man can be convicted of embezzelement then sign up for an accountancy degree and become an accountant. Presumably a kind of professional courtesy made fellow accountants/civil servants assume that all was ok with Mr Mackenzie.

    Yet it is bizarre. Can a man convicted of poisoning enter a Catering College. It makes no sense.

  • Mick Fealty


    I would think it was the bottled water story (there were Scottish folk needing water too at that time) from Scotland that triggered the memory. His family in Thurso is highly respected locally, and I guess most locals would feel that was a foolish mistake of youth.

    But it just shows that in this interconnected age it is hard to keep your past out of anything these days no matter how remote it may seem. And it only takes one person to cause the trigger.

  • The Raven

    “but I cannot see how we could ignore it.”

    Very easily. I think the term in the BBC trash can of a story, underneath the dirty big headline, is “spent criminal conviction.”

    If this is what happens after a term like “spent” is used in common parlance, then there’s no point in having the concept at all. Frankly, it sits up there with the tawdry background stories that have been done on Jo Yeates’ landlord.

    Not much point in bothering with rehabilitation, is there?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Fealty,
    In truth neither of us know for sure what the trigger was..bottled water or TV appearances. The main reason I lean to the latter is the “visual impact”.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    And I take The Ravens point about spent convictions but there are some areas where there cannot really be total rehabilitation.
    I am not of course making comparisons…..but a “spent conviction” for indecent assault might rule out a person from a job in a youth club. So embezzlement and public money is not a confidence builder.
    I know nothing of Mr MacKenzies early accountancy career except he has an accountancy degree but I remain amazed NOT at his appointment but rather the much earlier fact that he was allowed to practice.

  • runepig

    The Daily Record? Come on Slugger.

  • Pigeon Toes

    The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974enables some criminal convictions to become ‘spent’, or ignored, after a ‘rehabilitation period’.

    Exceptions To The Act

    There are some situations in which people will be expected to declare their convictions, even if they are spent. Some of the principal ones are:

    Appointment to any post providing accommodation, care, leisure and recreational facilities, schooling, social services, supervision or training to people aged under 18. Such posts include teachers, school caretakers, youth and social workers, child minders.

    Employment involving providing social services to elderly people, mentally or physically disabled people, alcohol or drug misusers or the chronically sick.

    Appointment to any office or employment involving the administration of justice, including police officers, probation officers, traffic wardens.

    Admission to certain professions which have legal protection (including lawyers, doctors, dentists, nurses, chemists, and accountants).

    Appointment to jobs where national security may be at risk (for example, certain posts in the civil service, defence contractors).

  • the old Manxman

    Not sure what the law is in NI, but the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in the rest of the UK normally considers convictions “spent” after 5 years for non-custodial sentences. However this does not apply for a whole range of professions, including high level financial positions, so if he did not disclose it when applying for the relevant jobs, he would be guilty of obtaining the position by deception.

    If the Record story is true (big if I know) he doesn’t come well out of the story well, never paying back the money and presumably not cooperating fully (there seems to be a dispute over the amount missing). Also at 21 he was hardly a kid.

    He may have been out of his depths at NIW, but nobody forced him to apply for the job or that at NIE. He was certainly confident enough about his abilities to demand the dismissal of the board members he felt would get in his way, despite their industry experience.

    As far a kicking someone when they’re down, maybe sympathy should be reserved for those who spent days or weeks without water. I assume one of the ironies of the situation is that without separate water rates, they can’t even claim any rebate as compensation.

    Mind you, yet again I am impressed by ability of some Slugger commentators to turn even the most non-sectarian of issues (presumably no one wants their water orange or green) into a grand old game of what-aboutery.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im still not happy.
    Does it mean that he would not be a member of a professional body if he had declared it.
    Or does it mean that declaring it is in itself no bar to becoming accepted as an accountant.

    I understand from tonights news that the Scottish Chartered Accountants body says he is a member.
    Certainly if thats the case, I would have assumed that he was held in good standing by his peers. And no reasonable person would have thought to check further.

  • Mark McGregor

    I agree with those calling this tabloid and irrelevant (not a new low for Slugger though, Conall McDevitt hasn’t done a request for complaints blog)

    I have no idea how the spent conviction of a young man relates to discussions on an older man’s performance in his job.

    He was not expected to declare it, his employer could never have know, he has not (as far as we know) ever repeated the offence since it became spent.

    This is a bit like digging around in bins.

  • Mark McGregor

    Can I also point out to the barrackroom lawyers, McKenzie was not convicted under the 2003 amendments or any amendments post-82. So when you are doing your blame game you’ll have to go to the trouble of sourcing the 74 Scottish Act and the one set of Amendments before 82. Then you’ll have to check if any post-82 Amendments are backdated – good luck with that, doubt many/any will bother.

  • cornelius trector

    I really do feel sorry for Mr McKenzie. At least 30 years ago he was able to leave his then troubled past behind him, and eventually move and find success in the relative obscurity on Northen Ireland.

    Given the global headlines that the recent events within NIW achieved, I suspect he might need to enrol on a NASA space programme to escape to a new life.

    Perhaps he could get a character reference from some of our space cadets in Stormont.

    Having said all of that isn’t it great that stealing £2K nearly 30 years makes the headlines in our wee province as opposed to some of the tragic headlines we have had to encounter over the past 40 years.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well I certainly wont bother.
    The fact that Mr MacKenzie was convicted of embezzlement and a few years later became an accountant is a big enough problem.

  • JAH

    Has A Tangled Web closed down or something? From a large number of the posts here the concept of any sort of forgiveness, redemption or second chance is clearly an alien concept. I thought it was a basis of Christianity and indeed most moral thinking in Ulster. Forgiveness.

    So what’s the point of prison if people don’t reform and change their lives. Before prison we strung them up or sent them to the colonies. Surely we’ve moved on from then.

    There was the recent case of the young lad done for theft who was turned down for medical training despite every bit of evidence he had reformed and would make an exemplary doctor. He was eventually accepted after going to the press.

    I know nothing of McKenzie but he deserves better than this especially from people who should know better.

  • pippakin

    This is a bit low, not of Slugger, once it was out there it had to be reported, but the person who opened the can of worms might have been better occupied comparing £2,000 with many deaths and £26,000000….

  • Brian

    I have mixed feelings about this. On one drunken night shortly after my 18th birthday I managed to get myself into some trouble. Got a disorderly conduct charge, which I had to explain for years after at job interviews even though that happened before I had even gone to university and when i was immature.

    So on one level I feel for this man. Something that happened 30 years ago shouldn’t be an albatross around his neck. On the other hand, stealing from a church collection plate is pretty serious and took some thought and planning. It wasn’t a youthful drunk driving or a petty shoplifting charge. Not sure if that is the kind of person you want looking out for the public.

    But at this point, it’s a case of kicking him when he’s down.

  • Mid Ulster Mae

    When was he appointed?
    I’m sure he should have faced a standard CRB check. Was this done?

    Could Mark McGregor please clarify:

    “McKenzie was not convicted under the 2003 amendments or any amendments post-82”

  • Chris Malachy

    I am in support of the rehabilitation of offenders. Life is about learning from one’s mistakes. But this is no mistake.

    Today’s revelations about Mr McKenzie’s convictions, all be it when he was a young man, should be a grave concern for any one of us. We have placed considerable trust (perhaps unwisely) in those sitting at the top of the hill to ensure that our hard earned tax payers contributions are spent wisely and assumed that the leadership appointed to take charge of any public body would have been vetted to do so. (did NIW know of this conviction? did they inform the DRD and the Minister? or was the long finger drawn on it)

    I trail your memory to 1 July and THAT PAC hearing when the very man (McKenzie) proudly told the hearing that “his antenae went up” when he realised there may possibly be inappropriate use of public money – the now famous procurement breaches which lead to the dismissal of 4 board members by Minister Murphy (I have followed slugger’s exposure of the whole saga!)

    The big question is, did Mr McKenzie’s antennae go up when he planned to steel monies from God’s House?! The amount is not important, neither is how long ago it was. This was a calculated action to deceive and obtain finances through fraud. No matter what his personal circumstances at the time of theft, it is simply not an acceptable behaviour. I was reared to accept that if I didn’t have, I had to make do without! These values were instilled in me from a very young age and no matter what splinters I faced along the down-slide of the banister of life, I could not have compromised my values!

    One other observation, the sacked NIW board members, as I understand it, were not dismissed due to theft or fraud, yet the very man at the centre of their dismissal (or so it seems) was caught with his hand in the kitty, sacked for it, unsuccessfully tried to get a similar post in the church, ran away from Scotland, but forgot to disclose this little sequence of events to a Minister and Perm Sec when he was charged as the sub-accounting officer! Does this sound like a man who has transformed to become an honest member of society? Could this be the major factor for McKenzie’s lack of media participation during the no water incident? Was this skeleton in his closet instrumental to his decision to resign and take the pennies (yet again) before its found out? Was it the reason why he failed to attend the regional committee’s session last week for fear of being ambushed about his spent convictions?

  • joeCanuck

    This story has absolutely no relevance to his competence or lack of it as head of NIW except perhaps to make him unemployable twice over. Let it be.

  • Well said JoeCanuck but we both know that this will not be the case.

  • andnowwhat

    He should have learned from Katie on the X Factor…keep your head down and nobody will know that your granny is a prostitute.

    Anny word on his meeteing with Sarah Venning prior to her interview for her post?

  • Pigeon Toes

    But there are very valid reasons why certain professions are excepted from the legislation. It is important to note that only “relevant spent convictions” need be disclosed, for
    example fraud, dishonesty or offences relating to insider
    dealing or market abuse amongst others.

    Presumably MacKenzie did disclose this if and when required, and as such this is a non-story.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘I understand that Mr MacKenzie has been under considerable personal strain throughout this whole period. I would not want to add further to that.’

    It is difficult to establish sympathy. In fact, it is difficult to refrain from laughing uproariously at this turn of events.

    The antennae twitching guardian of the people’s money? Nothing more needs to be said.

  • edgeoftheunion

    He may even have been a secret agent:

    • Is he fiddling with his mobile when the rest of you have yours turned off for an important meeting?

    • Are you suddenly aware that there is more dissent within the group than before, more disruption?

    • Are things suddenly going pear-shaped when they always went pretty smoothly before?

    Read more:,news-comment,news-politics,how-to-spot-an-undercover-agent-in-your-midst?DCMP=NLC-daily#ixzz1Aj3mmpi1

  • Pigeon Toes



  • andnowwhat

    We really need a good satirical programme on NI TV. It would write itself mind you.

  • Pigeon Toes

    We then have the infamous third-party organisations, the history of which the Committee may recall. I have written to the Committee about those before. Those organisations are in receipt of significant public funds, and appointments to their boards are made by civil servants. The recommendation from the Westminster PAC was that those appointments should be regulated by me. A list of 28 bodies was put forward. That has gone down to four, and it will soon be down to three; the others have all been withdrawn after decisions made by the accounting officers in the appropriate Departments…We also have the cross-border bodies, which are a result of the Good Friday Agreement. Administrative appointments to those bodies are not subject to any form of regulation or selection procedure; they are merely nominated directly by Ministers.

    I used to say that the situation was a patchwork quilt; it is still a patchwork quilt. Those who are familiar with quilting will know that it is all done in different types of designs and blocks. Before the situation was tidied up, we had one set of blocks being used. A different set of blocks are now being used, so it is still a very complicated patchwork quilt.

    As I said, if I find it hard to understand and keep track of them, we cannot talk about public confidence, transparency and openness. I draw particular attention to the third-party organisations, partly because there was an attempt to bring some form of regulation to some of these little animals that scurry around under the radar. There has been very little commitment from the Departments to stick with that. If we are going to try to regulate the appointments process across all sorts of different public bodies, it does not help if the one exercise that was started has failed. That was very disappointing. I can only do so much, and I have offered to do the work, but there is no appetite for it.”

    And some interesting stuff on the Interim NEDs

    Ms Purvis:

    I have a couple of specific questions, which you may not be in a position to answer. It will help me in the next session, which is on the issue of non-executive directors and their dismissal. Is there a process that has to be gone through when non-executive directors are dismissed from a board, and, if so, what is that process?

    Ms Huston:

    I am not responsible for a board’s operation. My role ceases when someone is appointed, so I do not have oversight of that. In fact, no one does. I have been able to do one thing within my code of practice. Issues came up with HANI and one or two other bodies where people did not fulfil what we would have expected of them as a non-executive director. Partly because of that, I have put in place measures so that anyone who is to be reappointed to a position has to continue to comply with the principles of public life which are appropriate for this role, and has to have been in receipt of satisfactory performance assessments each year. Other than that, unfortunately, I have no role and no locus over that sort of stuff.

    Ms Purvis:

    Obviously, there is a gap in the board of Northern Ireland Water in non-executive directors. The accounting officer said that the Department has secured your agreement to enable a deviation from the normal appointments process. What is that deviation?

    Ms Huston:

    We agreed a short-term appointments process with Northern Ireland Water so that it did not have to put out a major public advertisement and could target individuals who would put themselves forward. It often happens when appointments are made to a specialist board, where you might say that there is no point in putting an advertisement in the public papers because you will not get the people. Given the difficult circumstances in which NI Water found itself and the fact that it is to be for about six months, I agreed that it could approach people, who will still have to apply, and make them aware of the appointment opportunity and the appointments situation. They will still have to apply for the appointment, and they will still have to be interviewed. It is similar to the public appointments process, but it is not publicly advertised, although I think NI Water is putting something about it on its website.

    There are no clear and fast rules about what must and must not be advertised, so the deviation is that it will be done for approximately six months, as I understand it. It is being done quite quickly, which I support because I do not think that it should take a long time, and there will not necessarily be the application forms that are often required.

    Ms Purvis:

    Will there be a full public appointments process after that?

    Ms Huston:

    Yes. The agreement was done because the board requires people to sit on it to be able to function and carry out its duties. The Minister could have gone ahead and done it anyway and it would not have been appropriate for me to say that I did not think that NI Water should have that process. The agreement was on the clear understanding that, once the board was in place and it had been able to drawn breath and do what it needed to do, a full appointments process would be run as normal.

    Ms Purvis:

    So, is the Department headhunting people for that at the moment?

    Ms Huston:

    Yes. That occurs in other situations, but it just so happens that this is a rather controversial environment. Sometimes, specialisation requires headhunting.”

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ms Huston is an accountant and former Inland Revenue Inspector. So is her hubby.
    As Mackenzies name presumably appeared on the Scottish Association of Chartered Accountants, this in itself would be a recommendation as to his good standing in the profession. How he managed to be accepted by them is a different matter.
    But in this instance, I dont really see any blame at local level.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘We agreed a short-term appointments process with Northern Ireland Water so that it did not have to put out a major public advertisement’

    When Dylan released ‘John Wesley Harding’ at the tail end of the summer of love Griel Marcus, reviewing for ‘Rolling Stone’ mag was scathing. I quote his review, in full: ‘What is this shit?’

    So a self-styled inner circle circumvent the entire appointments process, get the Commissioner of Public Appointments on board, cobble the entire thing together over a tax-payer funded lunch at a swanky Belfast nosherie (or am I confusing that with another stitch-up at a swanky Belfast nosherie?) and appear to be unaccountable for any or all of the rules put in place regarding public appointments. The rules just cease to exist because they say they shouldn’t exist? What is this shit?

  • Pigeon Toes

    William, succinctly put . However, it is the role of Ms Venning which are queried regarding MacKenzie’s appointment and a “secret-ish” meeting prior to the normal interviewing process..
    I expect questions will be asked regarding the CEO’s appointment, with reference to how much that varied from normal/good practice….

    Expect another enquiry (yawn)

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Ms Venning which are queried regarding MacKenzie’s appointment”

    Should read is queried regarding her appointment and MacKenzies role within that”

    Apologies (New laptop)

  • William Markfelt

    ‘(New laptop)’

    Not on the naughty list this Christmas?

    I got socks.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Not on the naughty list this Christmas?”

    Well I got a nice Christmas bonus ;-D

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Northern Ireland Water bosses were unaware former chief executive Laurence MacKenzie had a spent conviction for embezzlement, the company has made clear.

    Minister Conor Murphy, whose department oversees NI Water, has already said he first heard Mr MacKenzie was found guilty of stealing from church funds from the media.

    But he said the issue was being |examined by NI Water. The company said there was no onus on Mr MacKenzie to declare his past given that the offence dates back almost 30 years.

    But the political focus remained on Mr Murphy after the SDLP demanded Mr MacKenzie’s reported £96,000 pay-off should be put on hold pending a full Assembly investigation into his appointment.

    Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said the Sinn Fein minister still has questions to answer.

    “It is my understanding that any applicant for a public service post is required to declare all convictions, spent or otherwise. If that was not a requirement for the post of chief executive of NIW, then as the overseeing minister, Conor Murphy must explain and take responsibility for such a serious omission,” Mr Allister said.”