'No further action' to be taken against Kelly over Maze tweet

Mr Kelly drew criticism following a tweet which marked the anniversary of a mass breakout from the Maze prison in 1983. Credit: Pacemaker

The Justice Minister is to take no further action against Gerry Kelly following a controversial post on social media which prompted calls for his removal from the Policing Board.

Naomi Long has said that, while a number of complaints had been lodged regarding a tweet shared by the Sinn Féin politician in September, a departmental lawyer advised her that there are insufficient grounds for considering his removal.

Mr Kelly, who is also a member of the Policing Board, was one of 38 IRA inmates who escaped from the Maze prison in 1983.

The post - which marked the anniversary of the mass breakout from the prison - drew criticism from a number of people, including Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Commenting on her decision, the Justice Minister said: “Following the tweet about the Maze escape issued by Gerry Kelly on 25 September 2020, a number of people made complaints to the Northern Ireland Policing Board indicating they believed the Board Code of Conduct had been breached.

"In addition, I received three letters asking me to consider removal of Mr Kelly from the Board."

She continued: “Recognising the unusual requirement that one political representative should be asked to determine whether another political representative appointed by another political party should retain a Board appointment, I sought advice from the Departmental Solicitor.

“Having considered that advice, it is clear that there are insufficient grounds even for holding an investigation into whether Mr Kelly should be removed from the Policing Board as the tweet, taken in the round with other statements of Mr Kelly, did not explicitly demonstrate a non-commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means or otherwise suggest that there would be grounds to consider statutory removal."

Ms Long added: “I have already made it clear that I found the tweet offensive - but I am also clear that in discharge of my functions I must act in line with established legal standards. On that basis, I have accepted the legal advice provided and will not be taking further action.”