Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein should have sacked McElduff insists former standards chief

Former watchdog Sir Alistair Graham
Former watchdog Sir Alistair Graham
Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff
Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff celebrates becoming MP for West Tyrone with the party's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, in June last year

By Claire O'Boyle

Former Parliamentary Standards Chair Sir Alistair Graham said Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff should have been sacked by the party over the Kingsmill row.

Sir Alistair, who was the Westminster sleaze watchdog until 2007, said he had never come across anything comparable to the "offensive and bizarre" tweet by Mr McElduff on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

"I think had this been any other political party, Mr McElduff would have been asked to step down by now," said Sir Alistair.

"I'm really surprised at the very modest reaction of Sinn Fein.

"I would have thought a large section, not only of the wider Catholic population, but also their own electorate, would have been extremely upset by what he did, and certainly would not want to be associated with it."

Sir Alistair, who spent three years chairing the Parades Commission, also said he didn't find it credible that Mr McElduff's online post was accidental.

"What he did, to mock what was the massacre of 10 innocent people, was totally unacceptable for anyone, let alone someone in his position," said Sir Alistair.

"And I think it's hardly credible that he didn't understand the significance of what he was doing.

"I think he has a bit of a track record for silly japes - but this was a jape too far."

Sir Alistair said the pressure remains on Sinn Fein to come up with a more reasonable response to the crisis.

"The party needs to develop a more proportionate response to reflect the depth of hurt Mr McElduff has caused," he said.

"But if they don't it might still be imposed by the parliamentary commission for standards, because there is a code of conduct MPs have to follow, and I can't imagine Sinn Fein's policy of abstentionism will count them out of that.

"Behaviour like this brings parliament into disrepute, whether the MP involved attends parliament or not.

"As far as Sinn Fein is concerned though, people will not quickly forget what he has done."

Asked if he can recall behaviour like this from any other MP, Sir Alistair said: "I can't think of anything comparable, anything quite so offensive or bizarre."

A vocal advocate for high standards at Westminster, Sir Alistair spoke out strongly during the MPs' expenses scandal.

And before leaving his role at the head of the Parades Commission, Sir Alistair (75), who was a central figure during some of the most bitter years of the marching dispute, said it had been a privilege to work in Northern Ireland

He added: "I would warmly encourage those who have shown real leadership, often in very difficult circumstances, to participate in local dialogue and to seek to achieve local understanding about the actual background to parades."

Meanwhile, Westminster's current Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has confirmed that a formal complaint has been received over Mr McElduff's tweet.

However, it will not open an investigation into the matter as there is an ongoing police probe. Police and any subsequent court proceedings will take precedence over its opening of any investigation.

The office said that while he is an abstentionist MP he is still subject to the code of conduct for MPs.

Belfast Telegraph


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