A Public Servant working in the UK Government’s Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was paid £10,000 (A$17,600) compensation because he was offended by having to walk past a portrait of the Queen each day.
The payment was revealed by Lord Maginnis, a former Ulster Unionist Party Member of Parliament in an address to Westminster’s upper house, the House of Lords.
Lord Maginnis said Lee Hegarty complained under human rights legislation that he should not have to work in an office that featured paintings of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
After his complaint, the portraits were removed and replaced with photographs of the royals meeting people in Northern Ireland during official visits.
Lord Maginnis said he was outraged that the senior official’s dispute was settled in secret with the then Secretary for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers (pictured), who approved the compensation payment for “hurt feelings and distress”.
“This is scandalous,” Lord Maginnis said.
“It is an indictment of the Northern Ireland Office and of this Government.”
Speaking to a mostly empty chamber, Lord Maginnis said the incident showed how the NIO had lost all sense of reality and compared the compensation payout with the delays faced by victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.
“I urge the Northern Ireland Office not only to restore the original portraits of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh but to expedite payment of the comparatively paltry compensation due to the people who are more deserving than this opportunistic Civil Servant,” he said.
Mr Hegarty has subsequently been promoted to Secretary and Accounting Officer at the Parades Commission, a Government body that regulates the often contentious marches common in Northern Ireland.
A source close to Ms Villiers did not dispute the account given by Lord Maginnis and said: “Of course, Theresa was hugely reluctant to allow this payment, but unfortunately sometimes that is unavoidable in this kind of legal dispute.”
London, 13 July 2019