Petition over Gerry Kelly sanction

Petition over Gerry Kelly sanction

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, DUPSpeaking 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 FéinSinn 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.Some SDLP MLAS have signed Petition of Concern so Gerry Kelly suspension motion will fall.— Ken Reid (@KenReid_utv) June 16, 2014

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