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Wells avoids Stormont ban over 'monster' outburst, by a margin of just two votes
(Liam Clarke, Belfast Telegraph)
CAITRIONA RUANE My message to Mr Wells is gone are the days when there is not a 'Fenian about the place.' Gone are the days when women did not have the vote or we did not have power. Sinn Féin will not tolerate bullying behaviour, we won't tolerate inequality, we certainly won't tolerate misogyny and we won't tolerate anyone being treated as a second class citizen.
EDWIN POOTS Mary Travers, who was leaving her chapel, was gunned down by the IRA.
She (Mary McArdle) had her chance to apologise.
She didn't, but she demanded that Mr Wells should apologise for doing what, for wagging his finger? That is the situation we find ourselves in and Ms Ruane tries to bring misogyny into it, how pathetic.
JIM WELLS I was angry, the community was angry.
Had I a right in a democratic society to express concern? Yes, because if I don't have that right then there is no freedom of speech in this building. Just to make it absolutely clear, I did accuse Mary McArdle of murdering Mary Travers... because it is true.
I said she was unfit to be an adviser because of her activity. A totally innocent woman was murdered by Mary McArdle.
November 22, 2012
A DUP politician accused of calling a Sinn Féin ministerial adviser a monster in the corridors of Stormont has avoided a weeklong ban from the Assembly. The Assembly voted by 51 votes to 49 not to discipline Jim Wells over two confrontations he had with both Caral Ni Chuilin, the Culture Minister, and her former adviser Mary McArdle last year.
As revealed by the Belfast Telegraph, a report from Tom Frawley, the Standards Commissioner, found that the DUP MLA admitted wagging his finger at the women, calling Ms McArdle a monster and telling Ms Ni Chuilin not to bring a murderer like Ms McArdle into his constituency.
Last night (Monday) Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by Ms McArdle, said she had found the debate upsetting.
At times Willie Hay, the Speaker, struggled to keep the debate on track. Ms Travers, who watched some of it in Dublin on computer, said it left her feeling that we'll never move on.
"Jim Wells's intentions were probably right but he would have been better walking on by and saying nothing. As for Sinn Féin, they shouldn't have brought a complaint, what happened to them really wasn't that bad compared to what happened to our family and other victims," she said.
She revealed that Mike Nesbitt, the UUP leader and a former Victims Commissioner, had rung her to seek her advice last Thursday.
Mr Nesbitt said that Sinn Féin should have contacted the bereaved Travers' family before appointing Ms McArdle.
While voting in Mr Wells's favour, he advised him: "It would have been better if you hadn't said whatever you said or did whatever you did. But you were angry, like most people."
Mr Wells was unrepentant.
He rounded on Sinn Féin, saying they would have a "long wait" if they expected him to apologise.
"I have to say murdering someone in sight of her father and mother coming out of a place of worship sinks to an all-time low," he said.
"Mary McArdle would not have been appointed to her £60,000 a year salary had she not murdered Mary Travers, because the reason that the two women knew each other so well was that they shared a cell together."
In return, Sinn Féin Members accused Mr Wells of bigotry. "This is about anti-Catholicism, sectarianism and misogyny," claimed Caitriona Ruane. Despite protests from the Speaker they reminded him of SAS killings and of DUP involvement in Ulster Resistance, some of whose other members were later convicted of arms offences.
Kieran McCarthy of Alliance introduced the motion on behalf of the Standards Committee, of which he is deputy chair. Afterwards he said: "I am disappointed that the debate turned into a slanging match, rather than discussing a serious issue about a Member breaking the code of conduct.
Surely once an independent commissioner has made his recommendations it is the duty of the Assembly to respect and take on board his findings."
Unionists voted against punishing Mr Wells while nationalists, the Greens and Alliance voted to suspend him.
No punishment was imposed.
This article appeared in the November 20, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.