Discipline decisions should not be a petition of concern

Standard

The news today is that the impending disciplinary debate into the actions of the DUP’s Jim Wells will be subject to a petition of concern from his party. On their parties website they say:

We want to normalise our institutions and political arrangements to demonstrate that democratic standards apply and fairness and equality of opportunity is the right of all.

Yet how can this be the case if they are requiring a qualified majority over a simple disciplinary matter against one of their own members, one that by instigating the petition of concern they can win by whipping their own MLAs even if they cannot rely on the UUP for support. That is not normalisation, nor is it demonstrating that democratic standards apply for fairness to all.

Now what has gone on between Mr Wells and Carál Ní Chuilín or Mary McArdle would appear to not be normal in the line of politics. Elsewhere in the UK where I have been active while I disagree on policy or the long-term separatist approach of some relations have always been convivial. Although of the member in question I know first hand that his dealings with those of opposite views is not always thus.

After the debate and before the vote on equal marriage last month I ran into Mr Wells in the canteen at Stormont. As I had met him before I decided to open a conversation with a friendly “Hello Jim”, he turned put on seeing my LGBT+ Lib Dems badge retorted “Oh, you’re one of them” before turning his back on me. My follow up questions about the state of health of my second cousin’s mother-in-law, Mrs Wells, and the rest of the family had to go unanswered.

So the possibility that Mr Wells may have had behaved in an “angry, venomous and intimidating” manner to Ms Ní Chuilín or would call Ms McArdle either “the murderer herself” or as he claimed in correct “the monster advisor” does not seem far fetched nor impossible to me.

If the DUP again in their own words want Northern Ireland to be “a place welcoming to all” they need to start with their own representatives from the very halls and stairwells of Stormont. Using a petition of concern as a means to prevent disciplinary action against someone who seems to not be able to be civil while disagreeing on direction or policy is a further misuse and continuation away from normal politics as in any other legislature the member would have been suspended for a period of time for such behaviour.

Here in Northern Ireland we still have a long way to go to be normal it seems.

Update on Monday, 19 November the debate was held and the vote for exclusion was defeated 49 voting for and 51 against

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