Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

McCrea’s disciplinary hearing postponed

The UUP leader removed the whip from outspoken MLA Basil McCrea after he criticised the party's handling of the Union flag issue

Basil McCrea’s disciplinary hearing has been postponed for a week after he asked for copies of documents that would be used at it.

The MLA has asked for three sets of papers ahead of the UUP hearing to have been held today.

“I would be happy to proceed now if they would just give them to me,” he said yesterday.

The Lagan Valley MLA is being disciplined after saying that he agreed with the Union flag being flown at Belfast City Hall on designated days only, in contrast with Belfast City Council’s three UUP councillors who believe the flag should be flown all year round.

Mr McCrea was due to face a disciplinary hearing over his stance but claims he has no case to answer. The first document requested is a copy of an email from Mark Woods, Secretary of the UUP’s Waringstown Branch.

It accuses Mr McCrea of “unacceptable behaviour” during Stephen Nolan’s Radio Ulster show last month.

The Lagan Valley MLA had condemned what Mr Woods calls “the regulated actions” of the party’s three Belfast councillors in voting against an Alliance motion for designated flying days on City Hall.

Mr McCrea said the motion was in line with UUP policy and refused to say whether he would consider joining the Alliance Party. Mr Woods now questions his loyalty.

The second document is an email from Mike Nesbitt (left), the party leader.

Senior UUP sources say the email was sent at the request of the three councillors. It contains a transcript of the Nolan Show and a request that the committee decide whether or not to act on it. It also informs the committee that Mr Nesbitt had removed the Stormont whip from Mr McCrea.

The third document is the report of an “investigating committee”. The disciplinary committee will release these documents if Mr McCrea undertakes not to make them public or show them to the press.

“I am considering this request and deciding what to do,” Mr McCrea said.

But party sources accused him of “jerking the committee about” and claimed he had been emailed a week ago. He denies this and acted all week as if he thought the hearing was proceeding.

He claims he only learnt of the postponement yesterday afternoon when party HQ told the BBC that there was no need to set up a satellite van as the meeting was postponed. If he is disciplined he has a right to appeal to the party officers, including Mr Nesbitt.

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