Northern Ireland

Row shines light on Stormont corridors

What to call the verbal fisticuffs between the DUP's Jim Wells and a Sinn Fein minister and her controversial former adviser?

Initially when I reported on it last week I settled on the term "corridor wars".

But the full report now available on the Assembly website makes it clear one of the altercations took place in a Stormont stairwell.

So maybe Monstergate is a better title, given Mr Wells' admission he called Mary McArdle a "monster adviser".

Although theoretically a seven-day exclusion was dangling over Jim Wells' head, it was always clear unionist MLAs would rally to the South Down member's cause.

In the end, they didn't need the Petition of Concern they had signed - the proposed punishment was rejected on a straight majority.

Once again, the episode shows us the personal degree of animosity that still exists between some unionists and republicans (amply illustrated at the weekend by Jim Allister's description of the Deputy First Minister as the "personification of evil".)

However, this has to be set alongside the fact that as the DUP and Sinn Fein troops launched their verbal assaults on each other, their respective leaders were unpacking their bags after a week-long joint selling pitch in China.

Stormont might feel frosty if you find yourself stuck in the same lift as Jim Wells and Mary McArdle, but the Assembly Speaker reported "a real family atmosphere" in the building as nearly 5000 people visited to celebrate Stormont's 80th birthday.

Monstergate appeared unedifying and not the kind of behaviour you would expect in an ordinary workplace.

But this Wednesday, Mary Travers' sister Ann will give evidence to the finance committee on the appointment of special advisers.

Her appearance in front of the committee, 28 years after her sister's murder, will illustrate that Stormont is still far from an ordinary workplace.