Northern Ireland news

DUP breaks silence over Ian Paisley's personal attack on News Letter journalist Sam McBride

The News Letter's Sam McBride, and DUP MP Ian Paisley
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP has issued a statement after North Antrim MP Ian Paisley faced criticism for launching a personal attack on a News Letter journalist.

Mr Paisley was responding to an analysis article by the newspaper's political editor Sam McBride.

The article examined the likelihood of restoring devolution, and suggested the DUP had prioritised opposing an Irish language act over resisting Westminster changes to Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

In a lengthy post online, Mr Paisley said the "Christian ethos of the DUP is under attack from the press" and it was typical of the media to "blame unionists for a decision that was not theirs".

He also made personalised comments about Mr McBride, referring to what he described as the reporter's Christian background and education.

The DUP was asked yesterday whether it supported Mr Paisley's comments about the journalist, and whether it was considered appropriate conduct for a party representative.

A DUP spokesperson said: "To claim that the DUP has taken a decision to advance abortion in Northern Ireland in order to avoid an Irish Language Act is not just wrong but ignores the other preconditions Sinn Fein has placed ahead of a return of devolution. To quote the author's words, such analysis would be 'politically naive'. Concentration should be on the analysis rather than the author."

Mr Paisley also made several disparaging remarks about the journalist, claiming he was "despicable.. immature.. and simplistic".

The online post appeared to have been removed yesterday afternoon.

On Twitter, Mr McBride accused the MP of making "a series of untrue allegations".

He said that while people can dismiss his analysis, anything he writes is his "honest professional – not personal – opinion".

Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), branded Mr Paisley's comments "unwarranted and unworthy of an MP".

"Mr Paisley has gone beyond the bounds of acceptable political discourse and has engaged in a personal attack which is extremely damaging. The consequences of this behaviour has been a vile reaction on social media," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann described Mr Paisley's attack as "extremely disappointing" and "a clear example of where he has played the man rather than the ball".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood branded the MP's comments a "total disgrace" and expressed his support for Mr McBride.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said "attacking a journalist so personally" was "bullying" and "completely disgraceful".

"We may not always like what journalists write. We may not always agree with their analysis. But we cannot have a free and open democracy without a free and open press," she tweeted.



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