20 January 2006

Stormontgate fiasco cost £9m

Belfast Telegraph

Demands for answers over spending of taxpayer cash

By Noel McAdam
20 January 2006

A total of 451 prison officers were forced to move home in Northern Ireland as a result of the Stormontgate spy ring scandal, it emerged last night.

And the total cost of the hundreds of re-locations to the public purse was more than £9m, the Government disclosed. Direct Rule Minister Lord Rooker also revealed that the associated security measures brought the total costs up to £24.6m.

The figures added fuel last night to demands for a full Parliamentary debate as the political controversy refused to fade away.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Rogan said: "It is inconceivable that a scandal that cost taxpayers millions in any other part of Government would not be properly investigated or even debated at a Parliamentary level."

In a Parliamentary answer to the UU party president, Lord Rooker said that a total of 451 prison officers were moved under the Assisted Home Removal Scheme at a total expenditure of £9,387,279.

The Minister, whose brief includes finance and personnel, said that the overall expenditure on the Prison Service security measures amounted to £24.46m.

Lord Rogan said: "The Stormontgate fiasco will not go away despite the numerous attempts by the Government to sweep it under the carpet and then move on.

"The astronomical costs to taxpayers of this episode demands further investigation and explanation.

"The bill for the relocation of prison officers and associated security measures (of) over £24m....is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Under the circumstances and given Lord Rooker's reply, I call on the Government to instigate a proper Parliamentary debate. The public deserve answers."

His call came after DUP MP Nigel Dodds also demanded the Government provide full disclosure rather than "dribs and drabs of information".

"The Government's whole handling of this episode has been abysmal," he said. "The Government needs to start giving straight answers to straight questions about 'Stormontgate' and tell us the whole truth," he said.

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