A formal Assembly complaint has been lodged against DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt over his conduct after describing opponents of the Maze peace centre as “nutters”.
Mr Spratt angrily denied having used the phrase after being pulled up by UUP leader Mike Nesbitt at a Stormont committee meeting last Wednesday, before apologising more than a day later.
Last night UUP chief whip Robin Swann wrote to the Assembly Commissioner for Standards, Douglas Bain, raising the “incident” and “the subsequent behaviour of Mr Jimmy Spratt”.
Mr Bain will now have to decide whether the complaint is admissible and, if he does, will begin a formal investigation which would involve interviews with both the complainant and Mr Spratt as well as other witnesses. If Mr Bain upholds the complaint, sanctions range from a public apology to the Assembly to suspension from Assembly proceedings without pay for a period.
In his letter, the UUP whip argued that Mr Spratt “fell short of the required standards during this whole affair and acted contrary to various aspects of the code of conduct which MLAs are bound to abide by”.
He said: “I would refer you specifically to the comments made by Mr Spratt during the meeting, both in his reference to those who oppose the proposed peace building and reconciliation centre at the Maze site as ‘nutters’ as well as his subsequent remarks to the chair of the committee, Mike Nesbitt, whom he accused of ‘spinning’.”
Mr Swann said that he found “the language he used towards Mr Nesbitt to be totally unacceptable ... not least as his protestations were later proved unequivocally wrong”.
Mr Swann said that “it is also important to draw to your attention” how Mr Spratt had denied saying “except the nutters” when contacted by the News Letter just four hours before his apology on Thursday night and how he had threatened this newspaper with legal action if we reported his comments.