Slugger O'Toole

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NI Assembly Commissioner for Standards: “In these circumstances some might have concerns as to my impartiality to consider your complaint…”

Sat 31 August 2013, 6:24pm

I’m not entirely convinced by the reason given by the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards, Douglas Bain, for his decision to recommend that the NI Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges appoint an Acting Commissioner to consider the DUP and TUV complaints about Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly’s attendance and speech at the recent controversial Castlederg parade.  Here’s what the Commissioner told the TUV leader Jim Allister, MLA.

Thank you for your letter of 12 August 2013 making a complaint against Gerry Kelly MLA arising out of his alleged conduct in Castlederg on 11 August 2013.

As a member of the Parades Commission I was one of those who agreed the determination in respect of the parade in Castlederg that day. In these circumstances some might have concerns as to my impartiality to consider your complaint. [added emphasis]

In these circumstances I have decided that it would be inappropriate for me to consider your complaint. I have advised the Committee on Standards and Privileges of my decision and recommended that they appoint an Acting Commissioner under the powers conferred on them by Section 23 of the Assembly Members’ (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 to consider your complaint. You will be advised of the Committee’s decision.

Although evidence of breaches of the Parades Commission determination on that parade was included in the complaint, that’s not what the Commissioner for Standards was being asked to rule on.

Rather he was to rule on whether Gerry Kelly’s attendance and speech at the event was in breach of the code of conduct for MLAs “by glorifying terrorism and damaging community relations”.  That shouldn’t be dependent on whether or not the Parades Commission determination was breached.

Unless it’s a tacit acknowledgement that those determinations may not always display the kind of impartiality a Commissioner for Standards is required to employ in his role, and that the current Commissioner would feel constrained in making a ruling independent of such a determination…

And who does he think might have concerns about his impartiality in these circumstances?

Either way, if the NI Assembly Commissioner for Standards feels unable to fulfil his duties due to his other role on the Parades Commission perhaps he should, as Jim Allister suggests, resign from one of those posts.  [Or both? - Ed]  Indeed.

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Comments (10)

  1. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Very strange. On one reading of his words it is almost as though he thinks, after his Castlederg ruling, that he has revealed his judgement to be partial in broad terms.

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  2. Barnshee (profile) says:

    Not me guv I`m not handling this crock of shit -somebody will have to do it –mind you better to have a committee of 1 prod i mick and I dunno a muslim/chinese type person-kick it into touch fer fucks sake.. don`t ask me …please

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  3. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    Dangerous stuff this and Jim knows it, what next, the obvious charges that attending/protesting at marches and demonstrations leave you open for damaging community relations? Stupid regulation when you think of it.

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  4. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Coll Ciotach

    “Stupid regulation when you think of it.”

    It’s an agreed code of conduct for all MLAs. Unless you think that it shouldn’t apply to some…

    Not that your paraphrasing of the complaint is accurate, btw.

    Perhaps Gerry Kelly just forgot that his party is as much ‘The State’ now as the Tories are.

    “Dangerous stuff this and Jim knows it…”

    What’s that you say? Don’t ask stupid questions?

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  5. Nevin (profile) says:

    “his party is as much ‘The State’ now as the Tories are”

    Really. I understood SF and the SDLP to be anti-UK state. Westminster and Stormont are not exactly in the same league and SF doesn’t involve itself in Westminster decision making.

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  6. Coll Ciotach (profile) says:

    Okay then Pete – it is a stupid code of conduct for all MLA’s

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  7. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    “it is a stupid code of conduct for all MLA’s”

    Really?!

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  8. gendjinn (profile) says:

    Perhaps Gerry Kelly just forgot that his party is as much ‘The State’ now as the Tories are.

    Yeah, you can tell that by the fact they all swear allegiance the queen and take their seats in Westminster.

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  9. SeaanUiNeill (profile) says:

    Sorry to go a little off theme aagin, Mick, but does this mean that Gerry Kelly will be getting preferential treatment over the first minister with a public “standards” examination of his behaviour?

    On Wikipedia I note that:

    “After an OFMdFM lawyer advised Robinson that he had committed no wrongdoing, “he had no case to answer,” he returned to active duty as First Minister despite the ongoing investigations by the police and the Assembly Commissioner Standards and Privileges. While the police investigation into the conduct of the Peter and Iris Robinson concluded in a recommendation not to prosecute in 2011, the Standards and Privileges enquiry has still not been completed three years after it was ordered by the Assembly, and remains ongoing.”

    But perhaps Gerry Kelly’s activities as an on the ground activist are rather more culpable than Peters possible (but so far not proven) use of his position to assist his friends (and others)! The only way we can be sure, however, is for Bain to fully and carefully examine Peter’s possible contacts among the local developers without the bizarre carnival of evasion that marked Irisgate. If he was not corrupt Peter was so utterly naive that no one can seriously believe in his ability to effectivly lead a political party. Why is this man still our first minister?

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  10. LuvSummer (profile) says:

    Quite worrying that the Commissioner should recognise their decision may not be deemed impartial.

    Perhaps they realise they cannot award Kelly a clean bill of health on this one and fear the backlash.

    Whatever the reasoning the role of Commissioner should garner more confidence from the public than this declaration allows.

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