Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin says mayor Sean Bateson's union flag tweet 'bit of banter'

Sinn Féin councillor Sean Bateson's Twitter exchange was shared online
Brendan Hughes

SINN Féin has said an online message in which a new mayor referred to the union flag as a 'butcher's apron' was a "bit of banter".

Sean Bateson faced criticism from unionists who described the language as "disrespectful" after screengrabs of the Twitter exchange from 2013 were circulated online.

In the posts, a message to Mr Bateson reads: "Mind the night you ripped down a union jack outside my house hahaha," to which Mr Bateson responded: "Haha aye that's right, had too [sic] be done though #butchersapron."

Mr Bateson (26) was this month elected to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, and has since been chosen as the local authority's new mayor.

Sinn Féin insisted the incident described in the online posts "didn't happen".

"This was a bit of banter between two friends. The incident didn't happen," a party spokesman said.

The term 'butcher's apron' is a pejorative term for the union flag to cite atrocities committed under British colonialism.

But Aaron Callan, a DUP councillor in Limavady, described the Twitter message as showing "disrespect to the unionist community".

He urged Mr Bateson and Sinn Féin to "retract and apologise for it", and "make clear that kind of disrespect and attitude is no longer there".

"I think to be honest it's disrespectful, especially if Sinn Féin are espousing that they are for 'equality, integrity and respect'," he said.

"It's not showing respect to the union flag which many in Causeway Coast and Glens hold dear."

Mr Callan also described the 'butcher's apron' reference as "very disrespectful".

The councillor said he has family members who served "in the line of duty and that kind of comment disrespects their memory".

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