SDLP leader rebuked for ‘bigots’ jibe at unionists

Newry and Mourne District Council  Playpark
Newry and Mourne District Council Playpark

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell was yesterday rebuked in the House of Commons for calling unionist MPs “bigots”.

Dr McDonnell made the comments after being asked why SDLP councillors supported naming a playground after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh, who has been linked to the Kingsmills massacre by the weapon he was arrested with.

Dr McDonnell was speaking during the second reading of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. He said to some extent devolution had “stalled” and Northern Ireland’s two main political parties, which includes the DUP, had pushed the other parties, including the SDLP, “to the margins”.

He added: “After 15 years, I might ask, where is the progress in reconciliation and why isn’t there any reference to reconciliation in the Bill?”

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, intervening, asked: “Would you care to tell the House how you feel that it’s a contribution to reconciliation for your councillors to support the naming of a children’s play park after a convicted dead IRA terrorist caught in possession of the weapon that was involved in the murder of 10 innocent Protestants at Kingsmill in south Armagh?”

Dr McDonnell replied: “The issue you refer to is not relevant to this debate and it’s quite simply an example of the DUP... the DUP are bigots and they want to drive a wedge through our society.”

But Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle asked for moderate language to be used in the Commons as he said MPs were in danger of losing respect for each other by using “inflammatory language”.

Mr Hoyle added that Dr McDonnell had used “bigot” in reference to the DUP MPs who were sitting behind him.