Ilex is still headless a year after McNulty...

ILEX remains headless a month-and-a-half into Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 - departed CEO Aideen McGinley’s big idea - and a FULL YEAR after former chair Roy McNulty left the company.

Oversight of the company has been headed up by Interim Chairman Matt McNulty since Roy McNulty stood down in February 15, 2012.

Meanwhile, the business end of the operation has been led by Interim Chief Executive and Ilex’s designated Accounting Officer Mel Higgins, since Ms McGinley left for a job at the BBC Trust on Hallowe’en.

At an Ilex board meeting in September 2010 Ms McGinley thanked the board and officials for the team effort that won Londonderry the UK City of Culture award. Mr McNulty in turn thanked her for “coming up with the idea that Derry should bid.” Now both are gone.

Thus the board responsible for monitoring Ilex’s actvities has had a caretaker chairman for a year; whilst the day-to-day Ilex operation has had a caretaker manager for three-and-a-half months and counting.

The Sentinel asked Ilex if it had made any progress on finding someone to fill either of the lucrative positions.

A spokesperson told the paper: “The deadline for applications for Chief Executive was last Friday, February 8.”

The paper was told to contact Ilex’s parent departments the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and the Department of Social Development (DSD) for a progress report on the trawl for a new chair.

After his departure last February Roy McNulty’s old job was advertised with a salary of just £30k ‘commensurate with experience’ despite the outgoing chair having earned £128,147 in salary, expenses and tax contributions (NIC) in 2008/9 alone.

But although OFMDFM had hoped a new Ilex chair would be busy two or three days a month acting as midwife of the ‘social and economic rebirth’ of Londonderry by last summer they have yet to find a suitable replacement.

The Sentinel asked both OFMDFM and DSD when it expected a new chair to be appointed. At the time of press no response was forthcoming.

Last October the Public Appointments Commissioner John Keanie, said he had hoped OFMDFM would “get on with it”.

In a joint statement then the OFMDFM Ministers advised: “A competition to find a new Chairperson was undertaken in early 2012. The competition failed to attract a suitably wide field of candidates and as a result a new public appointment competition will be advertised later this year.”

On Monday OFMDFM told the Assembly the vacancies had not yet ben filled.

Meanwhile, Ilex has revealed it is developing what it is calling an ‘Ebrington 2020’ process, which will “open up the site to full market potential” after Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013.

Pressed by Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood the OFMDFM Ministers said the “process of initiating a Development Framework to secure outline planning permission for the legacy usage of the site is underway which will open up the site to full market potential.”

Officials are working closely with Ilex to facilitate uses on the site to maintain interest and momentum in the development of Ebrington.

“To that end, Ilex is currently working on ‘Ebrington 2020; an approach, in line with the Development Framework, to identify potential projects for the site which will make the most significant contribution to improving quality of place, attraction and experience for the regeneration of Ebrington and develop an integrated process for economic appraisal for potential projects,” they stated.

If and when a new Chief Executive is appointed the three year appointment will take the new incumbent up to the deadline suggested by consultancy BDO for the proposed winding down of Ilex.

The BDO review (2011) envisaged the firm being wound down by 2016 and hoped the “end game” in terms of delivery of the redevelopment of Ebrington, Fort George and the Mark II regeneration plan was in sight.