North’s Secretary of State rejects claims that photos of Queen removed

Report suggested pictures of the British head of state had been ‘banned’ from Stormont House

The North’s Secretary of State has rejected claims that all pictures of Queen Elizabeth II have been removed from the Northern Ireland Office’s Belfast headquarters.

Julian Smith was responding to a report in the News Letter, which stated that all photographs of the British head of state had been “banned” from Stormont House.

In a statement, Mr Smith said he had been “delighted to see a picture of Her Majesty in my office when I arrived at Stormont House for the first time”.

Earlier this month the independent Ulster Unionist peer, Lord Maginnis, told the House of Lords that about £10,000 compensation had been paid to a civil servant, Lee Hegarty, who had been “offended at having to walk past portraits of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh”.


Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Maginnis said the portraits had been removed and Mr Hegarty consulted on what should replace them.

“He suggested that the portraits of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh should be replaced with photographs of, at best, the Queen meeting people during engagements in Northern Ireland.

“One such photograph features Her Majesty the Queen shaking hands with the former Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast,” Lord Maginnis said.

In addition to the picture in his office in Stormont House, Mr Smith said there were “many pictures and portraits” of the queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the British royal family “on public display” at Hillsborough Castle, the queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland.

Mr Smith said he would not comment on the statement made by Lord Maginnis, and added that he recognised the importance of the Northern Ireland Office “being an open and inclusive place to work”.

“As an employer in Northern Ireland, the NIO takes its obligations under the Northern Ireland Act and Fair Employment legislation seriously,” he said.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times