Petition over Gerry Kelly sanction

Published Monday, 16 June 2014
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A move to suspend Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly from Stormont looks set to be blocked due to a petition of concern which means the proposed sanction would require cross-community support.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin have signed the petition over a proposal to suspend Mr Kelly from the Assembly for five days over an incident involving a PSNI Land Rover at last year's Tour of the North.

"It was a pretty bad-tempered debate on occasions, but the outcome is that Gerry Kelly will not be suspended," UTV Political Editor Ken Reid said of Monday's proceedings.

While the vote will go ahead on Tuesday morning, the proposal will ultimately fall without cross-community backing.

The DUP's Alastair Ross, as chair of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, acknowledged that Mr Kelly had intended to defuse a tense situation.

But he added: "Despite this, Mr Kelly failed to demonstrate leadership when he obstructed the police vehicle.

"His actions set a poor example and resulted in a number of the crowd striking the police vehicle."

Mr Ross further criticised the SDLP for signing the petition of concern instead of perhaps tabling an amendment to seek a lesser sanction than the proposed five-day suspension.

"Nobody on the Committee, including Sinn Féin members, argued that this was not a breach of the code of conduct. Therefore, it follows that there should be some degree of sanction," he said.

By its actions this morning, the SDLP has decided that no sanction should follow Mr Kelly's actions.

Alastair Ross, DUP

Speaking during the debate, the SDLP's Alban Maginness said he was present at the time of the incident at Carrick Hill and that he believed Mr Kelly had helped to diffuse the situation.

"We have to be mindful in this House that any sanction imposed on a Member of this House should be proportionate," he said.

"Given the circumstances in which Mr Kelly made his intervention in order to try to defuse the situation, does that not mean that technical breach of the law should, in fact, be looked at in a different light?"

Mr Maginness added that his party believed the proposed sanction was "excessive" and that Mr Kelly had not been given the opportunity to apologise to the Assembly.

The UUP's Sandra Overend insisted that the proposed sanction against Mr Kelly was about maintaining standards for elected representatives, not "point-scoring".

"No matter what was happening that night, I do not think that there is any excuse for being on the bonnet of a PSNI Land Rover," she said.

"There are ways and means of dealing with the PSNI. You certainly would not catch me on the bonnet of a Land Rover."

The Alliance Party's Anna Lo said: "The fact that Mr Kelly accepted the reprimand is an acknowledgement that he broke the law.

"The Alliance Party supports sanctions, but I agree with Mr Maginness that the proposed sanction is excessive."

This is a farce, this is a charade, a pantomime. I am tempted to say that, rather than Mr Kelly offering any notion of apology, he is a bit confused as he is more used to the back of a Land Rover than the front of one ...

Alex Maskey, Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey criticised the attitude of some MLAs present, branding the day's proceedings "a farce" and insisting that Mr Kelly had only tried to calm the situation in question.

"When you read the report, the facts found and established were that very shortly after the vehicle stopped, Mr Kelly engaged in a robust way with a senior police officer present," he said.

"During that exchange, Mr Kelly asserted that his actions had been an attempt to calm things down, and the officer accepted that as being correct.

"So, at no time did Mr Kelly decide to go out that day and create trouble."

Both Mr Kelly and the PSNI officer who was driving the Land Rover have since been reprimanded by way of an informed warning.

© UTV News
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21 Comments
James in Comber wrote (94 days ago):
Had an Idea my comment wouldn't be posted by UTV Moderator....Wonder why?
lucylou in belfast wrote (94 days ago):
DOROTHY in KANSAS==[avenue?] yes lots of decent people from the unionist community probably feel they have no-one they can vote for who isn't far enough removed from ,as you put it, dancing to the extremist tune. My goodness the thousands who vote Sinn Fein must feel blessed that they can vote for so many who would never have as much as a flash of an extreme thought blight their minds. Those unionists who are out on a limb would rather not vote than give it to anyone who doesn't meet the normal standards of decency whether that be simply not being divisive; [or aligning themselves with people who bombed their way into political office.] That was one thing that really disappointed many decent unionists when SF was so widely supported regardless of the terrorist history of candidates. It was sold at the time as the 'peace' vote in nationalist communities and even though alternatives were available the'' dancers to the extreme tune ''were elected. Are there no Alliance/ SDLP candidates for nationalists to vote for so they too can avoid extreme voting?
What you on? in Belfast wrote (94 days ago):
@ Dorothy in Kansas, i would not call the Alliance party a Unionist party - not by any stretch of the imagination. They have sided with Sinn Fein and Republicans on so many things that they are more a 'sit on the fence'party. They seem to go with whoever can shout louder. Oh and I do think that Anna Lo showed the Alliance party's true colours when she referred to NI as a colony which would be better United. Well Anna have I got news for you - we are united with England, Scotland and Wales.
middle of the road in ulster wrote (94 days ago):
Another obvious case of appeasement. When will this end? A breach of the peace for erecting the country's national flag, what next PSNI helping shinners to erect republican flage.
stephen in madrid wrote (95 days ago):
Republican politicians, , seem to dance to the extremist tune. There must be tens of thousands of right-thinking, reasonable Republicans out there, who are not being represented, except by the sdlp. But the sdlp , being so small, is obviously not home to many of them.
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The voice above the crowd didn't come from within that increasingly tense and angry political arena.
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