Lord Maginnis sceptical about behavioural training as watchdog recommends 18 month ban after ‘abusive’ and ‘homophobic’ language

Independent peer Lord Maginnis has insisted he will only submit to behavioural training required by the House of Lord if it is very brief. 

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 3:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 4:25 pm
PACEMAKER PRESS 19/08/2013
Lord Maginnis  leaves Dungannon court house on monday,  after being  found guilty of assaulting a man in a road rage incident last year  Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER PRESS 19/08/2013 Lord Maginnis leaves Dungannon court house on monday, after being found guilty of assaulting a man in a road rage incident last year Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

He was speaking after the  Lords Conduct Committee recommended he be suspended from the House of Lords for at least 18 months for bullying and harassment of three MPs and a security guard.

The recommendation from the Lords Conduct Committee follows an investigation into the Northern Irish peer’s treatment of a parliamentary security officer and MPs Hannah Bardell, Luke Pollard and Toby Perkins.

The committee suggested Lord Maginnis’ suspension could be extended if he does not undergo training and change his ways.

The ex-MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was investigated after being “verbally abusive” to security officer Christian Bombolo when asked to show his parliamentary pass in January.

However Lord Maginnis responded that he believes he has been put under infair scrutinty in all aspects of his professional life since he publicly opposed same sex marriage in 2013 - and for his anti-abortion stance.

Speaking to the News Letter, he was at pains to say he does not oppose same sex-relationships nor civil partnerships but that “marriage is what it is”.

”When I voted against Same Sex marriage in 2013 I was targeted by LGBT campaigners,” he said. “After that I was labelled ‘Bigot of the Year’ and I have been targeted ever since by people who believe this philosophy must win out over everything else.”

The first incident ruled on by the Conduct Committee was in January when he was entering the Houses of Parliament.

”I am a diabetic and have no feeling from my knees down into my feet,” he said. “So I can walk with a stick but have difficulty walking down steps or walking after dark.”

He had just walked over a quarter mile from the Tube and arrived at the entrance of Parliament.

”But what I can’t do and what I needed to do on that occasion was to bend down to my case on the floor and take out my pass. But I can’t bend over or I lose my balance. So I explained to the chap, ‘I am sorry, I forgot to take my pass out of my case’.

”I don’t know what would have happened next, but then Ms Bardell intervened.”

He said Ms Bardell, who is a member of the LGBT community, said she did not know who he was at that point. However he countered that he had been a high profile MP and Peer in Parliament for 37 years and he was surprised she did not know who he was.

”The security guard didn’t get a chance to accept or reject my explanation about my pass with Ms Bardell chomping away in my ear. I was trying to speak directly to him.

”I was saying, ‘Come on - don’t be crooked’ and he told me to walk half a mile to the other entrance to get a pass.

”And I said, ‘come on don’t play about with me’. Then two very senior peers walking past vouched for me - Lord King and Lord Anderson. But whether Ms Bardell spoke over them or whether the security guard heard them, they were ignored. They went on through, and eventually I got through.”

He added: “I have been using that entrance for 37 years. At the other entrance I have never had the slightest problem even when I had forgotten my pass occasionally. They say: ‘Oh, it’s you Lord Maginnis’ and they let me in and tell me not to forget it tomorrow”.

He said Ms Bardell went on to speak about the incident in the Commons the day after.

”The Speaker in the commons told her, ‘We don’t normally name people in either house in this manner, but that if there was some abuse of the security guard that mustn’t happen’.

”She then put together a seven page statement about my life and went out and spoke to the press, who then came to me. 

“At that stage I didn’t know who she was - but the press informed me that she advertised herself on Twitter as ‘A queer who doesn’t annoy’.”

Lord Maginnis insists he did not address her when he was trying to gain access to Parliament and that LGBT issues were not mentioned by anyone during the incident.

”I hadn’t a clue who she was. All I knew was that she was chomping away at the bit in my ear.”

The second incident arose the next month from a meeting of the Armed Forces All-Party Parliamentary Group which was chaired by Labour MP Luke Pollard.

”As the meeting started I indicated to him that I wanted to ask a question. He acknowledged me but then he never called me. And when the whole thing was over I went up and said in a casual way: ‘Well thanks very much for calling me - you nodded that you would call me’.

”And he passed some remark and I looked at him. So then he replied: ‘I tell you what, we will settle this out on the terrace, my boyfriend is out there’.

”At that point we both walked away with no further words exchanged.”

Lord Maginnis had a very firm opinion of what sort of behavioural training he would be prepared to do as a result of the judgement against him.

”Apparently I have to do some behavioural training - can you imagine - an ex-school principal, ex-army major and ex-MP who was elected by a cross community vote... “.

Nobody has explained to him yet what format training will take. If it is a session of “a few hours”, he said he would comply.

“But if it is a series of sessions, like a-four-year-old being told how to take my bottle of milk... there is no chance I am going to do that. No - after all the years I have been in public service I am not going to humiliate myself”.

He alleged that many other people had been before the conduct committee for much more serious charges and had got off very lightly by comparison.

The SNP’s Ms Bardell, who witnessed the incident with Mr Bombolo, said Lord Maginnis would have been “shown the door” in “any normal workplace”.

Noting his return is dependent on the peer undertaking a behaviour course, the Livingston MP tweeted: “However, I consider it likely that if this had happened in any normal workplace in the UK and someone behaved in such a systematically abusive, bullying and homophobic way, which the report clearly states he has, they would be shown the door.

”According to the committee’s report, Ms Bardell complained that when she attempted to intervene in the clash between the peer and the security guard, she was treated “rudely and aggressively” by Lord Maginnis, who later used “homophobic and derogatory language about her” in comments to the media.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed in January, after the clash was made public, that it was investigating an allegation of hate crime at the House of Commons.

Mr Bombolo told Lords standards commissioner Lucy Scott-Moncrieff the incident had left him feeling “humiliated” and “worthless”, adding “I lost my esteem, my dignity”.

Lord Maginnis was also investigated for using homophobic language in relation to Mr Pollard - also a member of the LGBT community - in February 2020 after becoming disgruntled by the Labour MP’s chairing of a meeting of the Armed Forces All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Complaining about Mr Pollard’s conduct to chair of the group James Gray MP, he sent an email with the subject heading “Discrimination by Homos”.

Shadow environment secretary Mr Pollard said in his complaint that he was “shocked and surprised that this type of behaviour would happen within Westminster” and said the emails written by the Ulster politician made him feel like a “victim of abuse”.

In the committee’s report, it said Lord Maginnis, who is against gay marriage, showed a lack of contrition.“

In his oral appeal Lord Maginnis showed very little insight into the impact of his behaviour on the complainants, and no remorse for the upset he had caused,” the committee said.

“To the contrary, he portrayed himself as a victim of a conspiracy by people who disapproved of his views and insisted that all his conduct had been provoked.

“He also continued to refer to the complainants in a disobliging and sometimes offensive manner.”

Responding to questioning from the standards commissioner about the incident with Ms Bardell, the 82-year-old is said to have accused the MP of having a “serious mental illness and psychopathic disorder” and labelled the accusations a “lying tirade”.

Peers will have to approve the report before the suspension comes into force.

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