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Alasdair McDonnell heard saying 'DUP don't want a taig about the place' in recording

Arlene Foster calls for an apology to both her party and to Catholics

Published 25/09/2015

The SDLP leader is to give up his seat at Stormont to focus on Westminster
The SDLP leader is to give up his seat at Stormont to focus on Westminster

Anger has erupted over comments reportedly made by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell who claimed the DUP didn't want to work with Catholics and Sinn Fein "can't tell the truth" about the IRA.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein have rubbished the comments.

Dr McDonnell was recorded making the comments by North Belfast News journalist Evan Short at the opening of a new party office in Glengormley.

The South Belfast MP blamed the DUP and Sinn Fein for creating the current crisis at Stormont.

In the recording he said: "The DUP don't want partnership - they don't want a taig about the place. I'm sorry, it's as brutal as that.

"I'm not divisive, I don't like to be like that but they, at times, they've made it very clear to us they don't support the Good Friday Agreement, they don't support a lot of the changes that have taken place."

Dr McDonnell added: "Sinn Fein can't tell the truth. They just can't tell the truth, and they can tell us whatever they like and you've examples like Gerry Adams was never in the IRA and you've examples like Martin McGuinness saying this, that and the other thing. They're not telling the truth.

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DUP's Roberta McNally defiant in wake of 'taigs' and 'tramps' remarks  

"We fully support the chief constable when he discussed publicly in a press conference the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

"We know who killed Kevin McGuigan. And we know there are people out there associated with, connected with or involved in some way - that basically were involved in helping and supporting the murder of Kevin McGuigan."

Dr McDonnell also said his party would be able to resolve the current Stormont impasse within a week.

"In fact we would be able to sort it in an afternoon."

The SDLP has been asked for a comment.

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan described the comments as "ill-judged" but that he believed Dr McDonnell did not need to apologise.

DUP acting First Minister Arlene Foster - who said she was put in place to prevent "rogue and renegade" nationalist and republican ministers from taking decisions - has called for Dr McDonnell to apologise.

She said: "Alasdair McDonnell should apologise today, not just for an inaccurate slur on the DUP, but for the offense he will undoubtedly have caused to many Catholics by referring to them as 'taigs'.

"Had any other elected representative used such language they would have stepped forward to apologise.

"It does not matter that Alasdair clearly was unaware his comments were being recorded. They are offensive and inaccurate."

The MLA continued: "Whilst making his apology Dr McDonnell could also apologise for his party’s support for the naming of a playpark in honour of an IRA terrorist.

"He could also explain what kind of message is sent out by SDLP councillors supporting the early release of IRA terrorist Gerry McGeough whilst one of McGeough’s victims was sitting in the same room.

"The DUP will continue to ensure that individual ministers cannot force through decisions which should go before the Executive for consideration.

"Only in the last few days the SDLP Environment Minister has announced his intention to prohibit the growing of GM crops.

"That is a decision which is novel, controversial and cross-cutting and as such it is not one he has the power to take alone, but should come before the Executive.

"Those are exactly the kind of decisions that I remained in post to prevent being forced through. Perhaps Dr McDonnell would like to explain why his minister prefers an “ourselves alone” attitude instead of bringing it before the power-sharing Executive as the law demands."

Sinn Fein has branded the comments as political opportunism.

MLA Alex Maskey accused the SDLP leader of exploiting the murders of Gerard Davison and Kevin McGuigan for electoral purposes.

Mr Maskey said: “The brutal murders of both Gerard Davison and Kevin McGuigan have been exploited by the unionist parties for their own internal electoral intentions and Alasdair McDonnell’s scurrilous allegations are clearly an attempt to move the SDLP onto the same ground to score cheap political points.

“Sinn Fein has repeatedly challenged the SDLP to either put up or shut up and if Alasdair McDonnell or any other member of the SDLP has any information on the murders of Gerard Davison or Kevin McGuigan then they should bring that to the police.”

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