Northern Ireland

Jimmy Spratt cleared over Maze centre 'nutters' comment

Jimmy Spratt
Image caption Jimmy Spratt said his remarks had been spun for political purposes

Democratic Unionist Party MLA Jimmy Spratt has been cleared by the Northern Ireland Assembly's Commission for Standards and Privileges after complaints he broke the rules.

Last June, members of the Ulster Unionist Party complained about Mr Spratt's use of the word "nutters".

Mr Spratt made the comment during an assembly committee discussion about the Maze peace centre scheme.

On Tuesday, the report concluded that it was directed at a party colleague.

Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann had accused the DUP MLA of referring to those against the Maze prison project as "nutters", and denying using the term later.

The UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt, had also complained about the language Mr Spratt used during the meeting.

'Spurious complaint'

However, the commission's report said Mr Nesbitt's version of events were "simply inaccurate".

Mr Spratt has welcomed the findings, and said his remarks in committee had been "spun for political purposes".

"At the time this complaint was made I was, from a personal point of view, at a vulnerable point facing further major surgery for cancer," he said.

"This politically motivated and spurious complaint lodged by Mr Swann and spun in the media by Mike Nesbitt served no purpose other than to cause stress and distress to myself and my family."

Mr Spratt said he had not denied using the phrase "except the nutters" during committee proceedings, and that he had subsequently apologised for any harm caused to anyone who believed the remarks were directed at them.

The commission added that it was "disturbing that a complaint so lacking in substance" had been made.

However, the Ulster Unionist Party has challenged the findings of the report.

Mr Swann said: "We note the publication of Mr Bain's report, but do not accept his conclusions.

"Regarding Mr Spratt's statement, we will bless him with the mercy of our silence and wish him robust good health."

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