DUP members are “bigots” who want to drive a wedge through society, the SDLP leader has claimed.
Dr Alasdair McDonnell made the comments in the House of Commons after being asked why his party’s councillors supported naming a playground after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.
McCreesh was linked to the killing of 10 Protestants in the Kingsmills massacre in 1976.
Following a question on the play park by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, 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.
The South Belfast MP 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 — the DUP and Sinn Fein — had pushed the other parties, including the SDLP, “to the margins”.
Dr McDonnell said: “They 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.”
Lagan Valley MP Mr Donaldson intervened during Dr McDonnell's speech to ask: “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 Kingsmills?”
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 Mr Hoyle said: “Bigots is a very strong word and I am sure honourable members never judge each other like that.”
Dr McDonnell prompted further DUP protests when he said: “For the record, I didn't accuse any honourable member, I referred to a group.”
“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?”
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell