Campbell: DFM should apologise for Eastwood no-show gaffe

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DUP MP Gregory Campbell says Martin McGuinness should formally apologise - if he has not already done so - for claiming falsely that the new SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wasn’t present for a crucial vote to punt welfare to Whitehall.

The East Londonderry MLA made the call in the Assembly on Monday.

Mr Campbell said he received a letter from the Deputy First Minister acknowledging he had been wrong to claim that Mr Eastwood didn’t vote against the move on November 18.

He did.

Mr Campbell said: “I will not read the entire letter, but it said that he was writing to correct a reference that he made during Question Time, which was that another Member had not voted in the recent debate on the legislative consent motion for welfare reform, but that a review of the voting records for that item showed that he did vote on that matter.”

Mr McGuinness had originally erred by saying: “The vote that took place in this House was to deal with what I regarded as a technicality, which has a sunset clause that ensures that the power resides with this Executive.”

He went on: “The new party leader was not present for any of the debate, and the new party leader did not even vote. That is how seriously the SDLP took the decision that was taken in the Assembly.”

Mr McGuinness later acknowledged he was wrong about this.

But Mr Campbell wants a formal apology.

“Obviously, it is good that, when an error is made, the Member responsible rectifies it, but did an apology for the incorrect reference accompany the letter and we did not get it, or was no apology given for the incorrect assertion?”

Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said he’d look into it.

“I cannot answer your query at present. I am not particularly au fait with the full correspondence. I will take a look at it. That is the best that I can offer in the circumstances.”