The High Court in Northern Ireland has lifted a suspension on a contract awarded by the Department for Employment and Learning (DoE) in respect of a ‘Steps for Work’ programme in the Foyle area. The ruling allows the DoE to enter into the contract pending the outcome of the substantive challenge to the award. The automatic suspension was imposed following the commencement of a claim by a disappointed bidder, Rutledge Recruitment and Training limited (Rutledge). Rutledge is challenging (i) an alleged illegality in the failure to award a contract following an aborted tender commenced in 2009; and (ii) allegations of manifest errors in the award in 2011 of a contract to a competitor following a new tender. In deciding to lift the suspension, the High Court weighed the relative merits of the allegations and Rutledge’s contention that damages would not be an adequate remedy against the public interest in awarding the ‘Steps to Work’ contract in Foyle, which is the only area of the UK where the employment training programme is not provided. It concluded that in the main, the grounds for challenge do not raise a serious question to be tried and that the plaintiff’s arguments “pale when juxtaposed with the public interest in play”.