Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Allister censured for IRA comment

Outspoken unionist Jim Allister has been reprimanded in the Assembly for comments he made during a debate

Outspoken unionist Jim Allister has been reprimanded in the Assembly for comments he made during a debate.

The Traditional Unionist Voice leader, who prides himself on being a thorn in the side of the power-sharing Stormont Executive, was told his remarks fall far short of the standards expected from MLAs.

The jibe, referring to the 2004 Northern Bank robbery in which £26.5 million was stolen, was made from a sedentary position while Pat Sheehan, Sinn Fein's West Belfast MLA, was addressing the chamber last week.

"When I interjected with the question 'how much of the £26 million did you get?' I was referring to the collective 'you' of Sinn Fein, given the inextricable link between Sinn Fein and the IRA whose members robbed the Northern Bank," said Mr Allister.

"I was asking the question 'how much of the £26 million did Sinn Fein get?' which was and is, I believe, a legitimate question."

Assembly Speaker Willie Hay said the comments were referred to him by his deputy who was chairing the discussion on the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous) Bill last week.

Mr Hay said he will not hesitate to impose sanctions on any elected representative who steps out of line.

"While debate can be robust, it is not acceptable for the tone or nature of remarks to come close to discourtesy or disorder here within the chamber," he said.

"Members will know that will not be allowed in any other institution for a member from a sedentary position, or even rising in their place, to make such serious allegations against any member of this House. All members know that it is not in order to make unsubstantiated allegations against other members here within the chamber."

It is not the first time Mr Allister, a unionist hard-liner whose party opposes Sinn Fein in government, has been called to order. In 2011 he was banned for a week from speaking in the Assembly for a quip he made about Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness's attempt to become Irish president

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