Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Gerry Kelly failed democracy by refusing to show up

Gerry Kelly did not give evidence to the select committee
Gerry Kelly did not give evidence to the select committee

Gerry Kelly was like the ghost at the feast during yesterday's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

His influence could be felt but he wasn't seen. Mr Kelly handled the OTR issue for Sinn Fein, receiving the letters from the Northern Ireland Office and passing them on to fugitive republicans. He refused to give evidence, sending instead a written submission.

It wasn't good enough, another example of the sour relations between our two biggest parties. Mr Kelly needed to be there to answer questions from MPs. His claim that it was a diversionary tactic by unionists and a government inquiry didn't wash. The Hallett review, with which he co-operated, was the government inquiry carried out behind closed doors.

Yesterday's hearing was an inquiry by parliament and all the parties in it, carried out openly and in public. As a democratically elected representative who expects his own mandate to be respected he should have made himself available.

That being said, we had the next best thing in Barra McGrory, now the Director of Public Prosecutions. In his previous career he had handled the OTR letters for Sinn Fein, the party was one of his clients. As such he should have known as much as Mr Kelly and the committee probably didn't lose in a practical sense.

But Mr Kelly should have been there to spell out the situation in an open, honest and transparent way before the cameras and to the MPs of all parties.

It was almost as if he wished to annoy the unionists by suggesting that he had something to hide.

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