Video footage showing Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly removing a wheel clamp from this car with bolt cutters has been branded “appalling” and “brazen” by unionist representatives.
The online clip of the North Belfast MLA – taken on a strip of private ground in Exchange Street near St Anne’s Cathedral – was being widely circulated over the weekend.
It appeared to show Mr Kelly forcibly removing the immobilisation device and placing it against a nearby wall.
Sinn Fein later confirmed that Mr Kelly had cut the clamp off his car before driving off to prearranged meetings.
Mr Kelly, a former junior minister at Stormont, is the party’s spokesman on policing.
A PSNI spokeswoman said police are “investigating a complaint of criminal damage caused to a wheel clamp in Exchange Street, Belfast on Friday, February 2”.
A number of signs warning that a clamping policy is in place are visible on the wall close to where Mr Kelly had parked.
The Parking & Enforcement Agency signage states that the space is reserved for “permit holders only” and that a £100 clamp release fee is applicable.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds described the incident as “symptomatic of a wider pattern of behaviour by leading Sinn Fein figures”.
Mr Dodds said: “They regard themselves as not being bound by the same rules as the rest of society. They preach respect but show little or no respect for people, rules or laws which they disagree with.
“They preach equality but, to them, some are more equal than others. This is another significant test for the Sinn Fein leadership.”
The DUP MP added: “They failed miserably over the Barry McElduff scandal. They failed to deal with Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
“Will Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald or Michelle O’Neill finally take action when we have their policing spokesperson act like this? Nobody’s holding their breath.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said his Sinn Fein counterpart’s actions “demonstrate contempt for private property” and a “complete lack of respect for rules that apply to the rest of us in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Beggs said: “Does Gerry think that he is special and above the rules that apply to you and me?
“This is a public representative who sits on the Policing Board but seemingly drives around with a set of bolt cutters available to remove unwanted wheel clamps. He sets an appalling example.
“It seems that being in possession of a Royal Pardon has made Gerry Kelly believe that he is truly untouchable. He should do the decent thing and resign. If this was to happen in any other part of the United Kingdom or indeed the Republic, the relevant politician would be gone. Instead Gerry Kelly is arrogant and shameless.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said Mr Kelly’s actions were a “flagrant breach of the law,” for which he “must not escape criminal liability”.
Mr Allister said: “This must swiftly become a matter for police investigation and action. It must be demonstrated he is not above the law.
“His audacious taking of the law into his own hands must not go unchallenged by the law enforcement agencies. He had no right to remove the clamp and must not get away with it.”
The North Antrim MLA added: “Equal under the law seems appropriate for one who excels in nauseating lectures about equality.
“Kelly should resign after this self-serving, law-defying episode. It is time for another Sinn Fein representative to exit the public stage courtesy of his own brazen defiance of law and order.”
In a statement released on Saturday evening, a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Yesterday, Friday, February 2, Gerry Kelly MLA returned to his car after an early morning gym session to find that his car had been made immobile by a clamp just after 7.20am.
“He removed the clamp from the front wheel. He left the device nearby and drove off to prearranged meetings.
“His solicitor is dealing with the matter and he will be making no further comment at this time.”
Mr Kelly was part of the Sinn Fein negotiating team in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement and has been an MLA for North Belfast since 1998.