DUP accuse SDLP of 'spineless' response to Gerry Kelly debate

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The DUP's Alastair Ross, who chairs the Committee on Standards and Privileges, accused the SDLP of behaving in a "spineless" way in supporting a petition of concern blocking a committee motion that called for the exclusion of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly from the Assembly for five days, 16 June 2014.

The motion arose from an incident at the Carrick Hill area of Belfast on 21 June 2013, following a loyalist parade, when Mr Kelly was carried on the front of a police Land Rover for a short distance.

Mr Ross said both Mr Kelly and the driver of the Land Rover had accepted "informed warnings" and this meant the MLA had accepted the offence of impeding the police.

Alban Maginness of the SDLP opposed the motion.

"I was there when this particular incident took place," he said.

Mr Maginess said that Mr Kelly had been guilty of a technical breach of the code of conduct, but that the suggested sanction was "in my view disproportionate to whatever breach took place".

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend said she would "like to express my exasperation" at the SDLP.

She said she would never be seen on the bonnet of a police Land Rover, and called for Gerry Kelly to apologise and be excluded for five days.

Committee member Anna Lo of Alliance said she had proposed that Mr Kelly be given an opportunity to apologise.

She said "the proposed action is excessive".

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the debate was "a farce, this is a charade, this is a pantomime".

Ian McCrea of the DUP said it was "an absolute disgrace" that the house would not sanction a member who broke the law.

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood said he wanted to make it clear that he was his party's representative on the Committee on Standards and Privileges who had not been there when the vote had been taken.

He said he had not left the meeting "because I was spineless" but because he had a very good reason for leaving.

Gerry Kelly said the incident arose because he was approached by the mother of a young man who had been arrested and put into a police Land Rover.

She wanted to know what he had been arrested for and where he was being taken.

Mr Kelly said a police officer in the vehicle had assured him he would stop to speak to him but had driven off.

"I was annoyed, yes I was annoyed," Mr Kelly told the Assembly, adding that he was an elected representative trying to calm the situation and had been lied to.

Regarding the point during the incident when he was carried on the bonnet of a Land Rover, Mr Kelly said he had held on to the grille on front of the vehicle because, "if I had not I would have been under the Jeep".

No immediate vote was taken at the end of the debate due to the late issue of the petition of concern.

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