Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin MLAs Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan challenge Gregory Campbell over allegations

East Derry MP Gregory Campbell has been challenged to repeat the allegations outside Parliament. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press.
Seamus McKinney

TWO Sinn Féin MLAs have rejected allegations made by Gregory Campbell that they were involved in “illegality in community groups” in Derry.

Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan also threatened to pursue legal action if the allegations made by the East Derry MP and the Fianna Fail Senator Niall Blaney are repeated.

Mr Campbell made the comments under privilege at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster on Wednesday.

Ms Anderson and Ms Mullan intend stepping aside as assembly members after being asked to consider their positions following a Sinn Féin review in Derry.

The review recommended sweeping changes after the party lost its Westminster seat and five council seats in recent elections.

During the committee discussion, and speaking with the chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council David Campbell, Mr Campbell alleged there was a connection between the Sinn Féin review and allegations of “illegality” in some community associations in republican areas.

"A week ago, I wrote to the chief constable about allegations of illegality amongst community associations in republican areas where Sinn Féin members are involved. In fact, my understanding is that there may well be a connection between that and a recent investigation by Sinn Féin which has resulted in two Sinn Féin MLAs being asked to step down from the Stormont assembly," he said.

He said he had yet to hear back from the chief constable or Sinn Féin on the matter.

Separately Fianna Fail Senator Niall Blaney spoke in the Seanad on Monday with full parliamentary privilege, alleging “there are all kinds of rumours in Derry of community monies not being properly spent.”

However Padraig Ó Muirigh, a solicitor for the MLAs said the allegations from both politicians were “totally unfounded and without any evidential basis”.

Mr Ó Muirigh said: “In the absence of parliamentary privilege, these allegations are grossly defamatory and our clients would invite Mr Campbell and Mr Blaney to step outside the protections of their respective parliaments and repeat these unfounded allegations.

"In such circumstances we will take all necessary steps to vindicate our clients’ position in relation to any defamatory comments made against them and will pursue all legal remedies available.”

In a joint statement, Ms Anderson and Ms Mullan accused the politicians of “blackening” their names by linking them to illegal activity.

Senior Sinn Féin politician Gerry Kelly said the allegations were “grossly defamatory” and would be subject to legal scrutiny had they been made outside parliament.

“This is not the first time that the DUP in particular has abused privilege to make ludicrous and unfounded allegations,” the North Belfast MLA said.

Senator Blaney and the DUP were contacted for comment.

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