Chief Minister bows to pressure on resignation statement

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THE Chief Minister has bowed to increasing pressure to clarify and expand on statements made following the shock resignation of government chief executive Suzanne Wylie as the issue threatened to split the Council of Ministers.

Deputy Kristina Moore’s comments come after Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet described a ‘tense and less-than-happy atmosphere’ behind the scenes at Broad Street, and that witnessing the route to Mrs Wylie’s departure had been ‘like watching a slow-motion car crash’.

He spoke exclusively to the JEP at the end of last week as Islanders called for a fuller and honest explanation of what had gone wrong at the very top of government.

After questions were raised over the timeline of the resignation, Deputy Moore confirmed that she received Mrs Wylie’s letter of resignation on 14 March ahead of the formal announcement on 22 March – which she described as ‘a point which I should have made clear last week’.

‘That I did not is a matter of regret to me, and I apologise,’ she added, but Deputy Moore said the delay was ‘mutually agreed’ with Mrs Wylie to allow for planning.

In her statement, Deputy Moore also said she wanted to ‘clarify the public record’ relating to comments made in the States on 21 March by Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel.

During the States sitting, Deputy Morel said that he was not aware of any further resignations in the senior ranks of the civil service following the announcement that director general for health Caroline Landon and chief nurse Rose Naylor were to leave their roles at the end of this month.

But yesterday, Deputy Moore said she had informed Deputy Morel of Mrs Wylie’s departure on 14 March – the day that she handed in her resignation – with the Chief Minister claiming that Deputy Morel ‘clearly understood that a question on resignations concerned the Health Department’ specifically.

Suzanne Wylie Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (35499673)

She added: ‘I should have clarified this earlier and my public comment on this matter was unclear, and I apologise.’

Deputy Moore said: ‘As a Council of Ministers, we must act in a manner befitting of elected officials, with professionalism and decorum. We must unite and show Islanders that we are committed to delivering great services and better value for money.’

She added: ‘I have discussed this with Deputy Binet and the rest of the Council of Ministers, and we all believe that what Islanders want from us is government, not politics.’

Deputy Binet previously said that the government had been ‘disingenuous’ by suggesting that Mrs Wylie’s resignation was due to family reasons, with the official reason given that she was returning to Belfast.

The Chief Minister said her government had been elected on a mandate to ‘deliver change and to restore trust and accountability’, a commitment she said ‘we must live and breathe’, which had prompted the clarification yesterday.

Deputy Moore reiterated that Mrs Wylie’s departure was not connected to the Health departures, but for ‘personal’ reasons.

She said: ‘On behalf of the Council of Ministers, I thank Suzanne for her hard work in leading the public sector with dignity, drive, and ambition. Suzanne has been instrumental in this government delivering on the initiatives that have underpinned our early days in office, as we endeavour to deliver change quickly in areas that matter to Islanders such as cost-of-living, housing, and recruitment and retention.

‘Plans are under way to redefine the role of chief executive, which Suzanne is involved in, and we will then recruit a new person to the role quickly, so that we can maintain stability and move forward with our agenda for change.’

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