Proposed Stormont standards commissioner withdraws his name

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By David Young and Michael McHugh, PA

A retired Co Down solicitor who was set to become Stormont's new standards commissioner has withdrawn his name at the last minute.

A motion approving the appointment of Paul Kennedy had been due to be put to Assembly members during a sitting on Tuesday.

Stormont has been without a Commissioner for Standards since Douglas Bain's term in office ended in September 2017.

First Minister Arlene Foster during the Renewable Heating Inquiry 

An Assembly spokesperson said: "This afternoon, Mr Paul Kennedy informed the Assembly Commission that he wished to withdraw from the recruitment competition for Commissioner for Standards.

"The Assembly Commission will now seek to identify another candidate as soon as possible."

Mr Kennedy had been set to take on responsibility for investigating alleged breaches of members' code of conduct.

The code surrounds matters like elected representatives' declarations of interests and acting in the public interest.

A scheduled vote on the appointment of the new commissioner did not proceed on Tuesday.

A replacement for Mr Bain has not been appointed due to the long-running powersharing impasse during which Stormont was not sitting.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has faced calls to step aside while police investigate potential social distancing breaches at veteran republican Bobby Storey's funeral in West Belfast last month.

Ms O'Neill was among several senior Sinn Fein members who were present while hundreds of people lined the route of the cortege.

The assembly has a standards committee made up of its members.

Mr Kennedy, a qualified solicitor for 37 years, is an expert on commercial law.

Since retiring from practice, the married father-of-three has taken on a range of other roles, including membership of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee for Northern Ireland and voluntary work with a local homeless charity.

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