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Justice Minister Naomi Long urged to adjudicate on Gerry Kelly's Maze escape tweet


Row: Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly posted a tweet about the 1983 Maze jail breakout

Row: Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly posted a tweet about the 1983 Maze jail breakout

Row: Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly posted a tweet about the 1983 Maze jail breakout

The storm over a tweet by Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has landed on the desk of Justice Minister Naomi Long for a decision, it was learned last night.

The north Belfast MLA, who is also a member of the Policing Board, came under fire after posting a tweet about the 1983 Maze Prison breakout, in which he took part.

He wrote: "37 yrs ago 38 Irish Republican prisoners were getting into a lorry at H7 and heading to the front gate of Long Kesh and freedom.

"One of Big Bob's (Bobby Storey) best ops. I had the privilege of the front passenger seat.

"Well, someone had to check we were taking the right route out."

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis branded Mr Kelly's tweet "disgraceful and shameful"

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Following criticism, the Sinn Fein MLA reiterated his commitment to law and order.

"I am fully committed to the rule of law, based on the principles of fairness, impartiality and democratic accountability," Mr Kelly said.

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who also sits on the Policing Board, lodged a formal complaint over the matter. He revealed last night that the board had referred the matter to the Justice Minister for a decision.

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Nesbitt said: "I have been informed that the chair and the chief executive have discussed the matter and passed it on to Naomi Long, who under Schedule 1 of the Police Act 2000 does have the power (to act).

"The chair of the Policing Board has written to the Justice Minister, so there is a duty on her to respond."

During the prison escape, one prison officer died of a heart attack and 20 others were injured, including two who were shot with guns that had been smuggled into the prison.

Last night a spokesperson for the Policing Board confirmed the matter was with Justice Minister Naomi Long.

"Informal resolution of the complaint has not been reached and the Justice Minister has now been informed of this," they explained.

A spokesperson for Department of Justice added: "A letter from the chair of the Policing Board has just been received and is being considered."

Sinn Fein was approached for comment.

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