Sinn Féin MLA dismisses Transport NI tweet as "a joke"

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has said a tweet implying Transport NI treated a GAA match differently to the Twelfth was "simply a joke" Picture by: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
John Monaghan

A SINN Féin MLA has said a tweet implying Transport NI treated a GAA match differently to the Twelfth was "simply a joke."

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan tweeted the remark in reference to traffic disruption on Saturday in Maguiresbridge, Co Fermanagh, due to a Royal Black Perceptory parade.

Thousands of Fermanagh fans travelled out of the county on Saturday to spend the weekend in Dublin, where the Ernemen lost out by eight points in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

In response to a comment from a Fermanagh GAA fan which stated that the village was cut off "on a big weekend for supporters heading to Dublin", Mr Flanagan tweeted: "Roads Service wouldn’t know there was a match on. They know where the 12th was this year though. New surfaces for Kesh for it."

Mr Flanagan was criticised by the area’s MP Tom Elliott for the post, which has since been removed, which he said had "disgracefully smeared an entire reputable public organisation."

Mr Elliott, elected MP in May, said: "To imply that the organisation makes decisions on where to invest on anything other than on merit is outrageous."

"These comments, aside from having absolutely no foundation and being offensive to every Roads Service employee, are completely unbefitting for an elected representative," he told the Fermanagh Herald.

Mr Flanagan dismissed the criticism and the MP's call for an apology.

"Some boy tweeted me a joke and I was responding to it. Everyone knows that when a parade takes place it has nothing to do with Transport NI. It was simply a joke," he said.

It is not the first time Mr Flanagan has been in the spotlight for remarks made on social media.

In 2012 Mr Flanagan received criticism when he referred to the predominantly unionist village of Clabby as a "black hole" in a Facebook post.

He later said he was emphasising the poor internet coverage in the area.

"Clabby was a statement of fact. A black hole is a phrase used by mobile phone experts for very poor coverage, and there are lots of black holes throughout Fermanagh; Roslea, Derrygonnelly, they are all black holes if you are looking at mobile phone coverage," he said.

A spokesman for Transport NI said that anyone with "questions about the operation of Transport NI should contact the department directly."


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