Photos of Queen removed from NI government office

Martin McGuinness shakes hands with the Queen in Belfast in 2012

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Paul Faith

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has removed all portraits of the Queen from its Belfast headquarters.

Three weeks ago, Lord Maginnis told the House of Lords an NIO Civil Servant was paid £10,000 for having to walk past portraits of the Queen.

The senior employee was reportedly offended by the pictures in the building.

The employee was consulted about what image should be used, and suggested one of the Queen meeting Martin McGuinness.

All photos of the Queen have now been removed from Stormont House, the News Letter has reported.

Many nationalists in Northern Ireland do not regard themselves as British subjects, and would not recognise the Queen as their head of state.

‘This is outrageous’

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey said the issue had been raised with Boris Johnson during his visit to Northern Ireland, saying the new prime minister “looked a bit shocked”.

“Hopefully his staff will follow up on this and we will get some clarity,” he added.

“If true, this is outrageous. It is political correctness gone mad,” said Ulster Unionist peer Lord Rogan, in reference to the removal of the portraits.

When the story was initially reported, Sir Jonathan Stephens, the top civil servant at the NIO, emailed every employee to “offer some reassurance”.

In an email, seen by the BBC, he said the office was in contact with the individual concerned and was offering support.

Lord Rogan has since questioned the issue again in the House of Lords.

He asked the government to set out the criteria used to determine which portraits are displayed or removed from NIO buildings and to clarify the facts around what Lord Maginnis had told peers.

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Media captionLord Maginnis made a claim in Parliament about a £10,000 compensation payment

Posters, pictures and portraits

In response, NIO minister Lord Duncan said his office was working in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Equality Commission.

“The NIO is sensitive to the display of ‘posters, pictures, portraits or other displays that are more closely associated with one or other of the communities’ and will consider any concerns raised by employees,” he said.

“I can confirm that the department takes steps to ensure no such images are displayed in Stormont House.”

Lord Rogan said that the response “would seem to confirm that Royal portraits have been removed from Stormont House”.

When contacted for a response, the NIO stated: “We will not comment on individual personnel matters, nor will we comment on the specific comments made by Lord Rogan”.

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