Assembly altercation prompts Sinn Fein to lodge formal complaint

February 15, 2016

Sinn Fein says it has lodged a formal complaint against South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells in relation to an incident in the Assembly on Wednesday.

Video footage shows Mr Wells jumping from his seat and confronting Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon as she made to leave the assembly chamber, accusing her of making defamatory remarks about him on social media.

The altercation stemmed from a comment Ms Fearon posted on Twitter regarding a separate complaint over alleged sexist remarks made by Mr Wells, which were recorded during a Public Accounts Committee meeting on Tuesday.

In that video, Mr Wells apparently tells UUP MLA Ross Hussey he was “scared out of his wits” when a female civil servant he says reminds him of DUP leader Arlene Foster enters.

He is then heard telling Mr Hussey: “I’m brilliant with women under the age of eight and great with those over the age of 80 – it’s the ones in between I can’t cope with, between eight to 80.”

His comments sparked criticism on social media and led to a complaint being made accusing him of alleged sexist comments.

Mr Wells rejected this saying his remarks had been totally misunderstood while Mr Hussey said they were clearly meant as a joke and were self-deprecating.

Reacting, Ms Fearon tweeted: “Sad thing is, I’m not at all surprised by Jim Wells disgusting comments.  Not the first time he’s shown contempt for women.”

However, Mr Wells took exception to her remarks and during the confrontation, warned her that her comments were defamatory.

Following the incident, Sinn Fein issued a statement confirming a formal complaint had been lodged: “Sinn Féin have submitted a formal complaint with Assembly Commissioner for Standards Douglas Bain about the behaviour of Jim Wells towards MLA Megan Fearon in the assembly.  The complaint has been made on the grounds of equality, respect and good working relationships between members.”

Mr Wells later announced he would be taking legal action against Ms Fearon over her comments on Twitter.