Wheelchair-bound MLA offended by '˜stand up' remarks in Assembly

A wheelchair-using MLA was involved in a heated exchange with a DUP member during an Assembly debate today.

UUP MLA Andy Allen said he was offended by remarks made by the DUP’s Jonathan Bell during a discussion about social housing.

The row began when Mr Bell, a former enterprise minister said: “I’m going to stand up for people in social housing, need not sell them short.”

Mr Allen, a former solider who lost both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, interrupted Mr Bell to express his offence at the comments.

Mr Allen, who represents East Belfast, shouted his objection “as somebody who cannot get up and stand up, I take utter offence at those remarks.”

He then asked Mr Bell to take the remarks back.

Mr Bell replied: “The point I was making is I am standing up, as you well know, for the people in social housing need.

“That was the only meaning I had in that, and I will continue to stand up for people in social housing need.”

The motion, put forward by the UUP/SDLP Opposition, called on the Minister for Communities to commit to providing at least 8,800 new-build social housing units and 2,900 affordable housing units over the term of the Programme for Government 2016-2021.

Mr Bell added: “Coming from a family with significant disability within it and with members who are wheelchair-bound, I know that we are not doing enough in social housing. The Ulster Unionist and SDLP motion does not do enough for disabled people. It sells them short.”

A former Royal Irish Regiment soldier, Mr Allen was co-opted as the UUP MLA for East Belfast last year.

He was 19 when he had his right leg blown off and left leg badly injured by a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan in 2008.