Northern Ireland news

Gerry Kelly says clamping 'matter resolved' after he paid fine and damage costs

The North Belfast MLA and Sinn Féin's policing spokesman told the BBC that he had paid the fine and paid for the damage he caused when remvoing the parking company's clamp with bolt cutters from his car. Picture Mal McCann.

Gerry Kelly said he regrets removing a wheel clamp from his car and that "the matter has been resolved" with the parking company.

The North Belfast MLA and Sinn Féin's policing spokesman told the BBC that he had paid the fine and paid for the damage he caused when remvoing the parking company's clamp with bolt cutters from his car. 

He said he had paid a £100 fine and a further £50 for the damage done to the clamp to the company involved.

He said he regrets his decision to remove the clamp. 

The politician explained that he called the clamping company when he came out of the gym but got no response from them.

He said he needed to get to meetings and noticed there were bolt cutters in the gym. He said they used them to access lockers.

"I removed the chain and then arranged a meeting with police", he said.

"I did what I did, I regret doing it," he added.

"I haven't done it before. People think I carry bolt cutters in my car - to be clear this is the first time I've done it and won't be doing it again."

In a statement released today, Mr Kelly said: "I came out of the gym just after 8am to head to Stormont for talks. I saw that my car had been clamped.

"I phoned the number on the notice and the only response I got was music.

"I then went in to the Mac (Metropolitan Arts Centre) and asked had they another number for the company.

"I immediately rang that number and this number was out of use."

The MLA said he was "under pressure to get to the talks meetings", adding: "I remembered that the gym had a set of bolt cutters and I borrowed them.

"Let me add that staff at the gym were not aware what I was using the bolt cutters for.

"I then removed the clamp. I made an on-the-spot decision which I now regret.

"I have contacted the company and paid the fine. The issue has now been resolved."

Sinn Féin has faced calls to take action against Mr Kelly.

Police have confirmed that they are investigating a report of criminal damage.

Sinn Féin leader-in-waiting Mary Lou McDonald appeared confused when quizzed on the matter by reporters yesterday.

She said she did not yet have "the facts of exactly what happened" and Mr Kelly's solicitors were dealing with the issue.

When asked why Mr Kelly was carrying a set of bolt cutters, Ms McDonald chuckled: "I have absolutely no idea.

"I have absolutely no clue why Gerry has a bolt cutter in his car."

Read more: Gerry Kelly has a colourful relationship with the law

Video: Gerry Kelly filmed removing a clamp from his car

Right to clamp on private land has been controversial

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds claimed it was symptomatic of a “wider pattern” of Sinn Féin behaviour and represented a “significant test for the leadership”. He said he was not holding his breath waiting for action from the republican party's leadership.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said Mr Kelly should “do the decent thing and resign”.

The DUP said Sinn Féin's leadership faces a "significant test".

It is the latest row to hit Sinn Fein after its West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff resigned under pressure after posting a tweet with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the republican Kingsmill massacre in 1976.

Late last night Mr Kelly tweeted: “No-one can be above the law. I made a voluntary arrangement to meet the police and met them today for interview. I want to get the issue resolved as soon as possible.” 

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