Belfast Telegraph

Minister wrong on 'idiot' comment

Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots was wrong to say a rival Assembly member was acting as "the village idiot" during a heated debate on patient care, it has been ruled.

But Assembly Speaker Willie Hay revealed that the victim of the verbal volley failed to turn up to receive an apology from the minister.

Mr Poots had agreed to offer a face-to-face apology to the Alliance Party's Kieran McCarthy in the Speaker's office following the spat in the Assembly chamber.

But the Alliance Party said Mr McCarthy deserved a public apology and not one carried out in private.

The Speaker said the minister had accepted his ruling on the remark and he now considered the matter to be closed.

The initial clash came as politicians debated a motion last month on concerns over the emergency department at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

After Mr McCarthy attacked decisions he believed had contributed to problems in treating emergency cases, Mr Poots characterised his stance as "that of the village idiot".

Mr Hay told the Assembly: "I do believe that the language used did fall short of the standards I expect and I asked the minister to apologise. I convened a meeting in my office at 2.30pm today at which the minister had indicated that he was prepared to come and apologise to the member.

"However, the member, Mr McCarthy, was unwilling to attend to receive and accept the apology. Standing orders are clear. The Speaker's ruling is final."

Mr Hay added: "I therefore consider the matter closed because the minister agreed with my ruling, and the minister agreed to apologise at a meeting in my office with the member. And that's where the issue settles. And as far as I am concerned, the matter is now closed."

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