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

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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