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Alasdair McDonnell walks out of Westminster committee meeting

SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell walked out of a Westminster committee meeting after clashing with Labour MP Kate Hoey. Picture by Mal McCann
Claire Simpson and Michael McHugh, Press Association

FORMER SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell walked out of a committee meeting at Westminster after clashing with Labour MP Kate Hoey.

A chair was knocked over as Dr McDonnell left the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee during hearings on Monday about how a possible exit from the European Union would affect the north.

The South Belfast MP called on the committee chair to "control that member" after Ms Hoey appeared to smile as his party leader Colum Eastwood spoke about former SDLP leader John Hume and the peace process.

"That is not acceptable," Dr McDonnell said. "That was the second time today."

Ms Hoey, who is in favour of the UK leaving the EU, later said she "had not been laughing" at Mr Hume and continued to question Mr Eastwood.

Members of the north's main parties, including Sinn Féin, had been giving evidence to the committee of MPs about the likely impact of a British exit.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson claimed the Republic feared becoming isolated if the UK left the European Union.

"They are afraid of us leaving because they will lose their big friend in Europe," he said.

"Their concern is more to do with losing their big mate in a big pool and that they will become quite isolated should we choose to leave."

Mr Robinson, whose party favours an exit, also hit out critics who suggest it could jeopardise the peace process.

"I think that touches to a base level of politics, of concern and fear which I think is not suitable nor of a credit to anyone who should raise those," he said.

But Sinn Féin assembly member Megan Fearon insisted Ireland north and south was better in the EU.

"All sections of our society, from agriculture, business, education and the community and voluntary sectors, have received practical support, including funding, from Europe," she said.

"The EU has also been a major supporter of the development of the peace and political processes over the last two decades.

"As an MLA representing a border area, I know only too well the negative impact of partition. That would only be reinforced with a new European border."

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