Belfast Telegraph

Jim Wells to sue Sinn Fein MLA over tweet following 'I can't cope with women between eight to 80' remark

By Lesley Houston

The DUP's Jim Wells last night said he was taking legal action after critics attacked him on social media and accused him of making sexist remarks.

News of his decision to seek legal redress came just hours after Sinn Fein lodged a complaint with Stormont's standards watchdog over Mr Wells' confrontation with Newry and Armagh MLA Megan Fearon.

He said later he would be taking legal action over comments on Twitter she had made criticising him.

The comments which sparked the controversy were made to Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey before a Public Accounts Committee meeting on February 3.

Apparently unaware that the microphones were recording, Mr Wells was heard reacting as a female civil servant entered the room. He said: "She reminds me of Arlene Foster. She scared the wits out of me."

Seconds later he added: "I'm brilliant with women under the age of eight and great with those over the age of 80 - it's the ones in between I can't cope with, between eight to 80."

Yesterday, as MLAs watched, Mr Wells confronted Ms Fearon at the doors to the Assembly chamber to claim that her tweets rebuking him and subsequent jibes made by others on the subject were "defamatory in the extreme". Ms Fearon tweeted she found the remarks "disgusting", in one of many comments criticising Mr Wells.

During their exchange, again captured in an Assembly recording, Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin interrupted the pair. It later emerged Sinn Fein had lodged a complaint to the Standards Commissioner - the second time in two days Mr Wells had been reported.

On Tuesday East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson wrote to the commissioner to investigate whether Mr Wells' initial comments, which the DUP veteran had dismissed as "off-the-cuff", represented a breach of Stormont's code of conduct.

Mr Wells said his remarks had been totally misunderstood, while Mr Hussey defended him, saying: "He wasn't being sexist, it was a joke."

Last night Mr Wells said: "I told her (Ms Fearon) that I would be issuing legal proceedings against her. She expressed surprise, but was not rude to me in any way.

"I was not rude to her and she walked out of the chamber. I am also suing several others."

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