Politicians voice support for Robbie Butler, mocked by DUP for attending Pope event

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler. Picture by Mal McCann

POLITICAL allies and opponents have voiced support for an Ulster Unionist MLA who was ridiculed by DUP counterparts for attending a reception for Pope Francis.

Lagan Valley member Robbie Butler told The Irish News how a senior DUP figure said he was wrong to accept an invite to the August event at Dublin Castle and labelled the pontiff "the antichrist".

He said another DUP MLA blessed himself in a gesture of ridicule as they passed in the corridor of Stormont's Parliament Buildings.

Mr Butler declined to reveal the identity of the two DUP MLAs.

The DUP was widely criticised for snubbing the invite from taoiseach Leo Varadkar to the reception for Pope Francis.

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DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he took Mr Butler's word that the incident happened but wanted to "get the full facts ".

"I want to get the details of what was said," he told the BBC.

"That kind of behaviour is not acceptable."

Upper Bann assembly member Doug Beattie said one would not find "a more honourable man in NI politics" than Mr Butler.

"Those that mocked him or criticised his actions need to understand you are dragging unionism down by your lack of inclusion," he said.

Daniel McCrossan of the SDLP said: "Principled, decent, understanding, respectful & compassionate are a truer reflection of the character of my friend and colleague.

"We have differing political views but always choose to promote them inclusively and positively. Always."

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