Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Executive 'may share funds blame'

Margaret Ritchie
The judge said that the executive did not try to stop Margaret Ritchie

A judge has asked if the Northern Ireland Executive broke the law by not stopping Margaret Ritchie withholding a loyalist project's funding.

Mr Justice Declan Morgan made the comment during a judicial review of the minister's decision to withdraw more than 1m on 16 October last year.

He said the executive did not try to stop her when it met two days later.

A lawyer representing the project worker taking the case accepted the executive may also be to blame.

He said that any fault "may not be Mrs Ritchie's alone".

The barrister argued that she acted unlawfully because she breached the ministerial code by acting on her own.

But her legal team said that, even if she did breach the code, she was still entitled to make the decision and had acted lawfully.

Mr Justice Morgan, in Northern Ireland's High Court, said he hoped to announce his verdict within a few weeks.

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