Edwin Poots in 'paedophile-protecting' taunt at Gerry Adams

Edwin Poots accused Sinn Féin of covering up their 'paedophile-protecting president'

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Health Minister Edwin Poots has accused Sinn Féin of being more interested in covering up for their "paedophile-protecting president" than serving the needs of the community.

The accusation, aimed at Gerry Adams, came during a Stormont assembly debate.

He has been accused of withholding information about his niece's sexual abuse by his brother, Liam Adams, who was found guilty of rape last month.

Sinn Féin's Caitriona Ruane called on Mr Poots to withdraw his remarks.

The assembly Speaker, William Hay, shouted "order" and warned Mr Poots to be careful with the language he used, reminding him there was a standard of debate.

Mr Poots said he accepted that but added there was a "standard in life that people expect".

"When people are aware of paedophile activities taking place they should report it," he said.

"And the leader of Sinn Féin, the president, was aware and he believed it and he didn't report it.

Vile abuse

"So don't come with me seeking withdrawals. You'll not be getting any withdrawal from me on this issue," Mr Poots added.

Mr Adams, who resigned as a Stormont MLA in 2010 to stand for election in the Republic of Ireland, was in the Irish parliament in Dublin when Mr Poots made his remarks.

The Sinn Féin president has not responded to the DUP minister's accusation but his party colleague, Maeve McLaughlin, told Stormont Today that Mr Poots' approach in the chamber was "highly unprofessional".

"Sinn Féin will be looking very closely at the transcript in relation to coming to a decision around the next steps, but certainly his behaviour today was not ministerial and was not professional," Ms McLaughlin added.

Mr Poots' remarks came during a clash with Ms Ruane in a debate over the ban on blood donations from gay men.

The DUP minister said he had received vile abuse in recent weeks, directed at both at him and his family, by so-called liberals.

The assembly later passed a Sinn Féin motion, as amended by the UUP and Greens, urging the health minister to lift a ban on gay men who have been sexually inactive for one year giving blood, or to resign if he feels unable to do so.

Earlier in the debate, Mr Hay chided members of the DUP benches during a speech by Ms Ruane.

The speaker warned he would name members of the DUP who were heckling her.

On Monday in the assembly, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had defended how Gerry Adams had handled the issue of his brother's sexual abuse case.

The deputy first minister said both the RUC and the social services had been first told about the allegations in 1987.

He added that Gerry Adams had supported his niece when she reported the abuse.

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