NI Finance Minister had concerns about Ballykelly decentralisation

It's emerged that the North's finance minister had concerns about a decision to relocate the agriculture department to a former army base in County Derry.

An estimated 800 jobs will move from Belfast to the former Shackleton Army barracks in Ballykelly, despite a study showing Strabane to be the more economically deserving location.

Last night, it emerged on BBC Northern Ireland's programme "The View" that Sammy Wilson was asked to approve a decision by the agriculture minister to over-rule advice from her permanent secretary and opt for Ballykelly, without further appraising other potential sites.

Michelle O'Neill's "ministerial direction" had to be approved by the finance minister, and it emerged on the programme that he had concerns, and brought the matter to the executive.

It is understood Mr Wilson's concerns included the cost, staffing consideration and access to the former barracks site.

However, in an interview with The View, Ms O'Neill said the Ballykelly site was ideal, was already owned by the executive and would regenerate the area.

She said she was content with the process, which included an assessment of local council areas. Limavady, near Ballykelly, came second in an internal departmental audit, just behind Strabane.

Ms O'Neill said she hopes the trade union, NIPSA, which is seeking legal advice on the decision, will accept her explanation about why she opted for Ballykelly, before she began her Equality Impact Assessment.

NIPSA has not yet ruled out a Judicial Review.