Northern Ireland official offended by royal portraits secretly paid $12K

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A senior Northern Ireland official was secretly paid $12,500 in compensation because he was offended by portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip that hung in his London workplace, according to reports.

The miffed civil servant, Lee Hegarty, had worked in the office for between 15 and 20 years, and had recently claimed that under human rights legislation, it was unfair for him to have walk past the portraits, the Belfast News Letter said Friday in breaking the story.

His complaint resulted not only in the taxpayer-funded compensation, but in the portraits being removed, according to reports.

They were replaced by photographs of the royals meeting with people during official Northern Ireland visits.

The incident shows that the UK government office that handles Northern Ireland affairs has lost all sense of reality, Ken Maginnis, a Northern Ireland politician who is a life peer on the House of Lords, told that body on Wednesday.

“This is scandalous,” Maginnis said of the secret payment, urging that the original portraits be restored. “It is an indictment of the Northern Ireland Office and this government.”

“We have lost all sense of reality when a portrait of Her Majesty can cause offense to a civil servant but we do not bat an eyelid when we deny closure and justice to unfortunate people who have been abused in the most outrageous manner imaginable” when it comes to more justifiable claims, he said.

Hegarty heads the commission which regulates parades in Northern Ireland. The payment was approved by the then-Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, Maginnis said, according to the Independent.

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