UUP accuses SDLP of `humbug and hypocrisy' over honours list awards

 

An Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member, Mr Sam Foster, has accused the SDLP of "hypocrisy and humbug" after Downing Street disclosed that a number of nationalists refused awards in the British New Year honours list.

Mr Eddie McGrady, an SDLP MP and Assembly Member, complained that the disclosure that unnamed nationalists had declined honours was bringing an unnecessary element of division to politics in Northern Ireland. Mr McGrady said Downing Street appeared to be breaching protocol when a spokesman for the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, revealed that some nationalists had turned down awards.

He said Downing Street should not have released such information, which was unhelpful to the political process.

"It is creating another sort of element of division, small though it may be, which is totally unnecessary," the South Down MP told BBC Radio Ulster. Mr McGrady refused to say whether SDLP members had been offered awards. He said there was no party policy to decline awards but there was such a party "ethos".

The issue has created controversy within the SDLP in the past. A small number of individual members who accepted, or wanted to accept, awards have left the party. Mr Foster, a UUP Assembly member for Fermanagh South-Tyrone, deplored what he described as the SDLP's attempt to defend nationalist non-recognition of the British honours system.

"This is a pathetic showing by the SDLP in the light of the Belfast Agreement when the jurisdiction of Her Majesty the Queen was acknowledged by so many who voted Yes in the referendum on the agreement," said Mr Foster yesterday.

This is believed to be the first time that Downing Street has stated that nationalists declined honours.

Downing Street said it was making the point because it did not want people to think only one side had been offered awards. It understood the reason why nationalists turned down the honours.