Commissioner clears Jim Wells over spat with Sinn Fein MLA

Jim Wells MLA
Jim Wells MLA

Jim Wells has been cleared of wrong-doing by the Assembly’s standards and privileges committee over an alleged confrontation with a Sinn Fein MLA earlier this month.

Sinn Fein had complained about Mr Wells’ behaviour towards Megan Fearon as they were leaving the chamber on February 9.

At the time, the republican party said it had been made “on the grounds of equality, respect and good working relationships between members,” while Mr Wells said that he was warning Ms Fearon that comments she had made on social media were defamatory.

In a letter to the South Down MLA on Friday afternoon, the committee said the “commissioner found the complaint inadmissible,” and that “the committee agreed with the commissioner’s decision”.

Afterwards, a DUP spokesman said: “We made it clear previously that it was quite clear Jim did not intend to be offensive.”

In a separate development, a 48-year-old woman who made a complaint to police about remarks allegedly made by Mr Wells at a hustings event last April has been charged with wasting police time.

She is due in court next month.

The charge relates to comments about same-sex relationships - made on the platform of a pre-election public meeting in Downpatrick - which led to Mr Wells standing down as health minister.

Meanwhile, there is still no end in sight for Mr Wells’ long wait over whether the DUP will ratify him as the party’s candidate for May’s Assembly election.

Mr Wells had expected to know the decision several weeks ago and a series of deadlines have since been missed by the party.

When asked about when a decision will be made on whether Mr Wells will be the DUP’s South Down candidate, a party spokesman on Friday night told the News Letter: “The party has still got a few remaining selection issues to finalise [in several seats].

“We are aiming to get that completed as soon as possible.”