Sunday 21 January 2018

SDLP leader brands DUP members 'bigots'

Richard Wheeler

DEMOCRATIC Unionist Party (DUP) members are "bigots" who want to drive a wedge through society, a Northern Irish party leader has claimed.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell made the comments after being asked why SDLP councillors supported naming a playground after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.


McCreesh was linked to the killing of 10 Protestants in Kingsmill, Northern Ireland, in 1976.


Following a question on the play park by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Belfast South MP Dr McDonnell said: "The issue you refer to is not relevant to this debate and it's quite simply an example of the DUP... the DUP are bigots and they want to drive a wedge through our society."


Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle asked for moderate language to be used in the Commons as he said MPs were in danger of losing respect for each other by using "inflammatory language".


Mr Hoyle added Dr McDonnell had used "bigot" in reference to the DUP MPs sat behind him.


Dr McDonnell was speaking during the second reading of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.


He said to some extent devolution had "stalled" and Northern Ireland's two main political parties, which includes the DUP, had pushed the other parties, including the SDLP, "to the margins".


Dr McDonnell said: "They (the two main parties) have pushed us aside and are carving up the cake in their own self-interest rather than in the public interest.


"The Prime Minister and his Government cannot turn a blind eye any longer. The Government must recognise that the two-party stranglehold within what was designed to be an inclusive structure is now preventing that structure from achieving its objectives.


"After 15 years, I might ask, where is the progress in reconciliation and why isn't there any reference to reconciliation in the Bill? Where is the progress on cohesion and sharing and integration and any reference to it? Where is there any progress on victims' situations or in dealing with the past or dealing with divisions?"


DUP MP Mr Donaldson, intervening during Dr McDonnell's speech, asked: "Would you care to tell the House how you feel that it's a contribution to reconciliation for your councillors to support the naming of a children's play park after a convicted dead IRA terrorist caught in possession of the weapon that was involved in the murder of 10 innocent Protestants at Kingsmill in south Armagh?"


Dr McDonnell, to remarks of "What about the victims?", replied: "The issue you refer to is not relevant to this debate and it's quite simply an example of the DUP... the DUP are bigots and they want to drive a wedge through our society."


Dr McDonnell's comment provoked groans from DUP members sat behind him.


Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: "Bigots is a very strong word and I am sure honourable members never judge each other like that."


Dr McDonnell continued his speech before DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds raised a point of order.


Mr Dodds said to the deputy speaker: "A moment ago (MP for Belfast South Dr Alasdair McDonnell) when challenged about his party's support for naming a playground after an IRA terrorist, rather than answering the point he then used the term bigots to refer to honourable members in a somewhat childish reaction instead of answering the substantive point.


"Can you give a ruling as to the use of the term bigot as referred to honourable members in terms of parliamentary language because..."


Mr Hoyle injected: "That's why I did interrupt and say it is about a temperate debate, it's about moderate language, we don't want to inflame the debate and that's why I did it in the way that I did.


"I don't think it an appropriate use. What I would say is I made the point at the time, we have moved on and of course it's about making sure it is a debate where people have respect for each other and we are in danger of losing that respect with inflammatory language."


Dr McDonnell prompted further DUP protests when he said: "For the record, I didn't accuse any honourable member, I referred to a group."


Again Mr Hoyle interjected, saying to Dr McDonnell: "Before we get too far down further points of order, what I would I say is I know it was not an individual member but the members who you were referring to are all sat behind you.


"So in a sense it was a collective use of the word and that's why I don't want to prolong it. I've given you my view and I do want to hear more of your speech."

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