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New TUV councillor apologises for online sectarian comments

Marie Louise McCrory m.mccrory@irishnews.com

ONE of Belfast's newest councillors has apologised for sectarian comments she made online about Catholics. Jolene Bunting, who last week became the TUV's first councillor elected in the city, made the comments on a social network site in 2011.

Since winning her council seat, the 22-year-old has been heavily criticised for the comments she made.

Among the messages included one which read: "I'm so sick of the poor catholic bastards they make me sick. I wish they would jut go down to Ireland and then they can fly their flags and change the street sign down there. Its about time they realised there are 6 counties attached to their beloved Ireland that belongs to Britain and always will!!!" However, Ms Bunting, pictured, has now apologised for the post, admitting what she wrote was "wrong" - but said she didn't regret the content. "I've matured since then and I realise now that ranting on Facebook isn't going to change anything. The council chamber is where I will be voicing my concerns," she said. "I don't support foreign flags being flown in the streets of our city and I object to the changing of our street names," she said. She did, however, offer an apology to Catholics who might have been offended by her remarks. "I do want to apologise for the innocent people in the Court ward who I offended by using the word Catholic when I meant republicans," she said.

TUV leader Jim Allister dismissed the criticism of the party's newly elected member on Monday saying Ms Bunting "was barely out of school" when she made the remarks. "I think that many of us have made foolish comments," he said.

Meanwhile, a new mandatory code of conduct for councillors was passed by the assembly yesterday.

The new code covers issues relating to the registration, disclosure and declaration of interests, as well as lobbying and decision making.

Any allegations that a councillor has breached the code will be referred to the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints.

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