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'Disgust' at Assembly row over dead MLA David McClarty

By Noel McAdam

A deceased former independent Assembly Member was at the centre of an ugly Assembly row yesterday as the DUP lambasted the party's arch-rival Jim Allister.

Mr Allister swapped seats with the late David McClarty to join the committee investigating the BBC Panorama programme that accused former minister Nelson McCausland of political interference in the Housing Executive.

But independent Claire Sugden, who replaced Mr McClarty as an MLA, said she was "disgusted but not surprised" that the DUP had, she claimed, tried to use her late colleague to divert attention from the Red Sky controversy.

The DUP's Gregory Campbell claimed Mr Allister had shown contempt for the Assembly in going to the dying Mr McClarty and persuading him to try to get on to the committee.

In return Mr McClarty - a former Ulster Unionist - took Mr Allister's place on the employment and learning committee.

Mr Allister retorted: "Surely there's a limit to the concoction of facts that this House must listen to.

"The late Mr McClarty, many, many months before he sadly passed away, nine months after this inquiry started, was quite content that we swapped committees.

"I will not have my or Mr McClarty's integrity impugned."

Ms Sugden, who was Mr McClarty's campaign manager and who was co-opted into his Assembly seat after his death from cancer last year, then said: "That someone would use my deceased predecessor's name to deflect attention away from their own dirty wrongdoing, I was actually quite disgusted by that.

"I was part of that procedure of swapping committees with Mr Allister at that time.

"Mr Allister made the request politely, there was no bullying and to suggest so not only disrespects Mr Allister, it also disrespects the late David McClarty." Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said he would examine the remarks.

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