A war of words has broken out between the Chief Minister and Infrastructure Minister after the latter accused the government of being "disingenuous" over the reasons for the resignation of CEO Suzanne Wylie.
Deputy Kristina Moore is coming under increased scrutiny after it was confirmed last week that Mrs Wylie is stepping down from her role as the island's most senior civil servant.
In an interview on Saturday, Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet broke ministerial ranks to describe a "tense atmosphere" within Broad Street, where he said Mrs Wylie needed greater support and a happier working environment.
During last week’s States sitting, Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel told the Assembly that he was unaware of any other future resignations when being asked about the departures of Chief Officer of Health and Community Services, Caroline Landon, and Chief Nurse Rose Naylor. Mrs Wylie’s resignation was announced less than 24 hours later.
Deputy Moore said that while Mrs Wylie had informed her that she intended to resign several days earlier, the announcement could only be made once the resignation had been formalised in writing.
Pictured: Chief Minister Kristina Moore.
The Chief Minister said: ‘Obviously these things take time because there are a number of different issues to deal with and Suzanne asked us to observe strictest confidentiality. We have a duty of care to all of our employees [and] confidentiality is really important.
Deputy Moore added that she, and her ministerial colleagues, had been ‘shocked’ and ‘saddened by the news’.
"Most people will understand that when it comes to confidential employment matters we have to respect our duty of care to those people. It is important that confidence can be kept but that is not to say we are not being open or transparent."
However, Deputy Binet said the loss of someone as skilled as Mrs Wylie should be seen as an ‘own goal’ and that witnessing the route to her departure had been ‘like watching a slow-motion car crash’.
Pictured: Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet has broken rank to criticise the government over Mrs Wylie's departure
The government have said that Mrs Wylie is resigning for family reasons and will be returning to Belfast. However, Deputy Binet said that he did not believe this to be the case.
He said: "I think it is disingenuous to expect the public to believe the story that she is going back to be closer to family. Clearly, she had committed herself to the Island for the foreseeable future.
"I don’t share in the Chief Minister’s view that we should see this as an opportunity. Rather, we should view this as an own goal and a lost opportunity to build on 12 months’ knowledge and good work."
Pictured: Government CEO Suzanne Wylie is returning to Belfast to become CEO of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.
Deputy Binet added that more power was held by some than others, and, sitting on the periphery, last week’s events did not come as that much of a surprise.
"We have lost somebody who is, in my view, a first-class, dedicated, easy-to-work-with chief executive," he said. "She is a real asset to this government and to the Island and more than capable of making a significant contribution to resolving the many problems created by the Parker regime.
"In these circumstances, somebody in her position needed support, understanding, assistance and a happy working environment. In my view, some of these requirements were in short supply."
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