Belfast Telegraph

Poots won't face action over his tweet on homosexuality

By Victoria Leonard

A complaint against Edwin Poots has been dropped after the Assembly's standards watchdog said the DUP politician had not been acting in his capacity as an MLA in a controversial tweet about homosexuality.

The Green Party NI is now calling for changes to the Stormont Code of Conduct.

Last week, Green Party deputy leader Clare Bailey submitted a formal complaint to the Assembly Commissioner for Standards, Douglas Bain, alleging that a tweet by Mr Poots linked the LGBTQ community with paedophilia and was contrary to the Code of Conduct.

Mr Poots' tweet followed controversy over Prince George being branded a "gay icon" by the PinkNews LGBT website.

The Lagan Valley MLA had tweeted: "Totally supporting Jim (Allister) on this one, making children an icon of sexuality today, pedophilia (sic) tomorrow. Absolutely disgusting."

Mr Poots' tweet contained a link to a letter from TUV leader Jim Allister to Benjamin Cohen, the chief executive of PinkNews, which was published in the Belfast News Letter.

The letter condemned PinkNews for posting a picture of Prince George on a helicopter with his face in his hands, accompanied by the statement: "Prince George has become a gay icon overnight."

Ms Bailey has now opted to discontinue the formal complaint which she submitted to the Assembly Commissioner over the issue.

Her decision came after Mr Bain wrote to her saying: "Having carefully considered the supporting material you submitted with your complaint I can find nothing to satisfy me that at the relevant time Mr Poots was acting in his capacity as an MLA."

Mr Bain requested more evidence from Ms Bailey to show that Mr Poots had been acting in his capacity as an MLA at the time of the tweet, and to clarify which parts of the Code of Conduct Mr Poots allegedly broke.

However, the Greens stated that Ms Bailey had decided to discontinue the complaint "given that all available evidence had been previously provided".

Ms Bailey commented: "The Assembly Code of Conduct must be reformed to embrace a wide interpretation of when and how MLAs are acting in an official capacity.

"Mr Poots describes himself as 'MLA' through his Twitter handle. Yet, his Twitter statement was held to fall outside the scope of his capacity of a MLA.

"I think most people out there would see the lack of logic around the application of the Code of Conduct in this instance.

"We find ourselves in a situation where the Assembly is not sitting.

"Coupled with a narrow interpretation of the Assembly Code of Conduct, MLAs are relatively unaccountable at present.

"Let's take a proactive and common sense approach to improving standards amongst political representatives."

Mr Poots had previously denied that his tweet linked homosexuality with paedophilia.

The DUP declined to comment yesterday.

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