SDLP South Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell got a ticking off in Westminster after he branded the DUP as ‘bigots’.
The remark by the SDLP leader incensed DUP MPs Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson who called on the deputy speaker to have the remarks withdrawn.
Tempers boiled during a debate on Monday night in the House of Commons on the Northern Ireland Bill.
After being challenged about SDLP support for the naming of a play park after an IRA terrorist, SDLP leader Dr Alastair McDonnell responded by calling the DUP ‘bigots’.
The Deputy Speaker said this was not appropriate.
Here is the official Hansard record of the debate:
Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP: “After 15 years, where is the progress on reconciliation and where is there any reference to reconciliation in the Bill?
“Where is the progress on cohesion,… sharing and integration, or any reference to them? Where is there any progress on the victims’ situation, or on dealing with the past or with divisions? I am distressed and concerned that the Bill is silent on those matters.
“I would prefer that we were here today to discuss how progress on those issues could be advanced and included in a Bill.
Mr Jeffrey Donaldson MP: Would the hon. Gentleman care to tell the House how he feels it is a contribution to reconciliation for his party’s councillors to support the naming of a children’s play park after a convicted, dead IRA terrorist, who was caught in possession of the weapon involved in the murder of 10 innocent Protestants at Kingsmill in south Armagh?
Dr McDonnell: “The issue the right hon. Gentleman refers to is not relevant to this Bill. It is quite simply an example of the DUP—
Rev William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): “You wanted to talk about victims.
Dr McDonnell: “Yes. The DUP are bigots and sectarian and they want to drive a wedge through our society.
Mr Donaldson: “Mr Deputy Speaker!
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): “‘Bigots’ is a very strong word. I am sure that hon. Members never judge each other like that.
Dr McDonnell: “There are issues here, and these people come to apologise for the failures that they have created in Stormont…………
Mr Dodds: “On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. A moment ago, the hon. Member for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell) was challenged about his party’s support for the naming of a playground after an IRA terrorist.
“Rather than answering the point, he used the term “bigots” to refer to hon. Members in a somewhat childish reaction, instead of responding to the substantive point. Can you give a ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, on the use of the term “bigot” as parliamentary language to refer to hon. Members?
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): “That is why I interrupted the debate. This is about having a temperate debate. It is about using moderate language. We do not want to inflame the debate.
“That is why I interrupted in the way that I did. I do not think that it was an appropriate use of the word, but I made that point at the time. We have moved on, and it is about making sure that it is a debate in which people have respect for one another. We are in danger of losing that respect with the use of inflammatory language.
Dr McDonnell: “Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. For the record, I did not accuse any hon. Member. I referred to a group of—[Interruption.]
Mr Dodds: “On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr Deputy Speaker: “Before we get too far with further points of order, I know that reference was not made to an individual Member, but the Members to whom the hon. Member for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell) referred were sitting behind him.
“In a sense, it was a collective use of the word. I do not want to prolong this. I have given my view and I want to hear more of the hon. Gentleman’s speech.”