SDLP and DUP clash over 'bigot' attack

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The leader of the SDLP has branded the DUP "bigots" who want to "drive a wedge" through society.

Alasdair McDonnell made the comments during second reading of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill on 24 June 2013.

Dr McDonnell had been asked by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson why SDLP councillors supported naming a playground after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

Mr McCreesh, from Camlough, south Armagh, was a convicted terrorist. He died in the Maze after 61 days on hunger strike in 1981.

Dr McDonnell replied: "The issue you refer to is not relevant to this debate and it's quite simply an example of the DUP... the DUP are bigots and they want to drive a wedge through our society."

The Deputy Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, interjected: "Bigots is a very strong word and I am sure honourable members never judge each other like that."

Minutes later, the DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds raised a point of order seeking clarification on whether Dr McDonnell had used unparliamentary language.

"That's why I did interrupt and say it is about a temperate debate," Mr Hoyle said. "It's about moderate language, we don't want to inflame the debate and that's why I did it in the way that I did."

He warned MPs they were in danger of losing respect for each other by using "inflammatory language".

Referring to the exchanges later on, Mr Donaldson said "resorting back to old insults does not engender the kind of political climate in which we need to move reconciliation forwards".

MPs went on to approve the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill at second reading.

The bill seeks to abolish the practice of double-jobbing, where Northern Irish Assembly Members also sit in the House of Commons, and sets a five year term for the Assembly - so that the next election would be in 2016.

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