Irish News

Sunday 31 August 2014

McCrea hearing could be delayed

Published 03/01/2013 | 17:30

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Basil McCrea had the UUP whip withdrawn over his stance on flying the Union flag over Belfast City Hall

A meeting to discipline Ulster Unionist MLA Basil McCrea may be delayed, it has emerged.

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The internal hearing was scheduled for Friday but Mr McCrea requested an alternative date because of a pre-arranged family engagement in Scotland.

Last month the Lagan Valley representative had the party whip withdrawn over his stance on flying the Union flag over Belfast City Hall. Bob Stoker, who was among three Belfast City councillors that threatened to resign if Mr McCrea was not reprimanded, said he believed Friday's meeting would be adjourned.

He said: "I expect the committee will meet to discuss his request (for an alternate date). I understand he is out of the country. It is only fair that people do get a chance, as with any procedure where people are being questioned. The party is open and transparent."

Mr McCrea caused controversy after he publicly opposed the stance of the UUP's three councillors in Belfast. He claimed flying the flag on a limited number of days was an acceptable compromise which he would have backed had he been entitled to vote.

The internal disciplinary committee, which includes Tom Fleming, Lord Rogan and Lady Trimble, can take any action against Mr McCrea including expulsion or imposing a fine. Members report findings to the party officers.

The disciplinary hearing had been due to take place at Stormont at 4pm on Friday. Mr McCrea said he believed such action was unnecessary.

He said: "I really think I have spoken appropriately for party policy at all times so I am in the dark as to what the issues are. I have asked for clarification on the issues but they have yet to get back to me."

Mr McCrea also said he had not received a response to the request for an alternative date. And, although he remains a party member, South Down MLA John McAllister was sacked as deputy leader of the UUP Assembly group after a speech in which he claimed the UUP was sleepwalking into Unionist unity.

A spokesman for the Ulster Unionists declined to comment on the latest issue. He said: "A disciplinary hearing is an internal matter for the UUP."

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