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Emma Little-Pengelly denies sectarian motive in Short Strand bus stop row

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly has been criticised for calling for the name of this Glider bus stop to be changed from 'Short Strand'. Picture by Matt Bohill

EMMA Little-Pengelly has denied a sectarian motive after voicing "serious concerns" about a bus halt in east Belfast called Short Strand.

The DUP MP had written to Transport NI to express her concerns about the naming of a stop on the new Belfast Rapid Transit Route.

The South Belfast MP said she was contacted by a constituent concerned about the naming of a stop on the Albertbridge Road.

She said that that the name "does not reflect either the area or the history of the area in which the stop is situated" and was "clearly not a Short Strand stop".

Translink however pointed out that the newly installed bus stop under the Glider system, had simply replaced a previous Metro stop of the same name.

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The DUP MP faced criticism from elected representatives and social media users after a letter, written on House of Commons headed notepaper to constituents, about the city-bound stop was shared online.

She said that a requested joint meeting with DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson and Transport NI had not yet taken place.

"I am therefore not happy that the halt has now been physically named in such an inaccurate way," she added.

DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly has sought a meeting with transport officials to discuss the name of the bus stop. Picture by Mark Marlow/Pacemaker

Ms Little-Pengelly concluded her letter by announcing she would be launching a petition for people to sign regarding the naming of the halt.

However she came in for criticism after taking to Twitter to air her views.

Alliance leader and East Belfast MLA Naomi Long said she was "trying to understand why it's an issue to use the name already given on the stops".

"The halts are in pairs, though. Hence the naming convention. They're effectively the same stop: one country-bound halt, one city bound, but both with the same name/location descriptor," she said.

The bus stop is on the Albertbridge Road and sits outside Ms Little-Pengelly's South Belfast constituency. Picture by Matt Bohill

Senator and former Belfast mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile tweeted: "Short Strand has lots of history too, including a history of this stop/halt having always been called 'Short Strand'."

Irish News columnist Newton Emerson asked the DUP MP: "Really Emma? Glider stops are named in pairs. You don't think people on one side of a road across an interface not wanting to use the name on the other is a sectarian issue?"

The DUP MP replied: "People are entitled to their views. However, I genuinely do not believe I am sectarian. I certainly am not motivated by such. I genuinely try to work for all and be fair in all my dealings."

She later told the BBC that "it is not a sectarian issue at all" and said she was merely responding to the concerns of a constituents who had contacted her.

Ms Little Pengelly said her job as an MP was to deal with, not only major issues but the "smaller issues" highlighted by constituents.

The letter sent by Emma Little-Pengelly on House of Commons headed notepaper to her constituents about the issue. Picture from Twitter

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