Northern Ireland news

Alliance councillor 'pot kettle black' over Jonathan Bell pub claims criticism

DUP MLA Jim Wells, and right, the Alliance Party's Patrick Brown
Brendan Hughes

AN ALLIANCE councillor suspended for drink-driving has been branded a "pot calling the kettle black" for criticising ex-DUP minister Jonathan Bell's alleged New York boozing.

Patrick Brown received a six-month suspension from his elected role by a council standards watchdog following his drink-driving conviction.

The representative on Newry, Mourne and Down council hit out at Mr Bell over claims made at the RHI inquiry last week by his former special adviser.

It was alleged Mr Bell was asked to leave a New York pub during a ministerial trip after he became intoxicated and fell asleep twice.

The then Stormont enterprise minister sang Deep Blue Something hit single Breakfast at Tiffany's "at full volume" while being helped back to his hotel, his former aide Timothy Cairns said.

Sharing the claims on Facebook, Mr Brown wrote: "RHI inquiry latest – this is what an important trade mission to the US looks like to DUP ministers. Passing out after a bottle of wine and belting out pop anthems in the street!"

The DUP's Jim Wells, an MLA for South Down, said Mr Bell's alleged behaviour is "totally unacceptable" and "well below what's expected of a government minister".

But he said Mr Brown's response was a "pot calling the kettle black" given his drink-driving conviction.

"Somebody who has been convicted of that is really throwing stones in the greenhouse, but what has been reported regarding Jonathan Bell I could never defend," he added.

The Alliance Party declined to comment.

In July, Mr Brown lost a High Court appeal against his suspension imposed by the Local Government Commissioner for Standards.

'The sanction followed his conviction last year for riding his motorbike with a pillion passenger while under the influence.

In January, Mr Brown said he wanted to apologise profusely "to all those I have let down".

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