Belfast Telegraph

MLA wants Poots apology for 'village idiot slur’

By Lisa Smyth

Pressure is growing on the Health Minister to apologise for calling an MLA a “village idiot”.

Edwin Poots laid into Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy during a particularly heated debate at Stormont on Monday over his handling of the A&E crisis.

Now Mr McCarthy has reported the matter to Stormont Speaker William Hay and called for Mr Poots to apologise.

He said: “I was disgusted that the minister used such language during an Assembly debate.

“The Assembly is meant to be a place for mature and grown-up debate, not a place for insulting language to be used.

“I would have thought that a minister in our Executive would have the capability to come up with a valid response to my criticism, but by using such language he has in effect lost the argument.

“This incident has been reported to the Speaker and I await his ruling, but I would think that Mr Poots will do the honest thing and apologise to me.”

It is the latest storm involving the Health Minister, who has come under increasing pressure as the health service limps from one crisis to another.

He was forced to defend the service at the A&E at Antrim Area Hospital at the beginning of the year as an increasing number of patients were left lying on trolleys in the unit.

Then an outbreak of pseudomonas at two Northern Ireland hospitals resulted in the deaths of four premature babies.

In recent weeks, a fresh row has erupted over A&E services in the Belfast and South Eastern Health & Social Care trusts.

At an Assembly debate on the latest A&E crisis on Monday, Mr Poots faced a barrage of criticism from colleagues — including Mr McCarthy. A clearly rattled Mr Poots responded by calling Mr McCarthy a “village idiot”.

The minister has so far refused to withdraw the statement.

Mr Poots is expected in front of the Stormont health committee today.

If you have been affected by the A&E crisis, telephone Lisa Smyth on 9026 4283.

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