Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Wednesday, 24 October 2012 18:52 UK

Health Committee

A member of the Health Committee said the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) stank of corruption following revelations which emerged from whistle blowing allegations, on 24 October 2012.

DUP MLA Gordon Dunne made the comment in the light of a report calling for major changes in management at the service.

The committee took evidence from Health Department officials, and from NIFRs representatives.

Members queried the role of the department in overseeing NIFRS.

"At the end of the day the department is responsible," Mr Dunne commented.

Conall McDevitt of the SDLP questioned the role of the NIFRS board.

"There is a serious question as to whether board members were negligent to their directorial duties," he said.

Mr McDevitt wanted to know whether the current NIFRS director of finance received an irregular payment in 2008-9.

This was confirmed by Julie Thompson from the Health Department.

The chief executive of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said he was ordering an independent review of management.

Jim Wallace said he hoped the process would begin within 10 days.

Mr Wallace spoke about the "reputational damage" suffered by the service.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Kerr said it was a source of embarrassment that it took whistleblowers to bring the wrongdoing to light.

"The actions and omissions of a few have tarnished the reputation of many," he said.

Earlier in the meeting, public health officials investigating a recent outbreak of E. Coli in Belfast told the committee a particular restaurant remained at the centre of their inquiries.

A total of 18 people were hospitalised after eating at Flicks restaurant in Cityside Mall, off York Street, in the north of the city.

Dr Carolyn Harper of the Public Health Agency said they were, "focussing our investigations on mechanisms within the restaurant setting".

Members were advised that the officials would be restricted in their answers due to the possibility of future legal action.

Dr Harper described the outbreak as "very significant".

Conall McDevitt wanted reassurance that the restaurant was the sole source of the outbreak.

Maria Jennings of the Food Standards Agency said they were, "happy, based on the evidence that we know, that it is not widespread within the community".

The UUP's Roy Beggs asked about the cooking temperature required to kill the bacteria.

Ms Jennings confirmed that the bacteria would be killed by cooking and that therefore, "what you have to look at then is post-cooking contamination".

Health committee membership


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