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UUP suspend election candidate Jim Sands after tricolour comments

South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan apologised for tweeting a picture of himself standing in front of a loyalist bonfire topped by a tricolour
Connla Young

A FORMER UUP election candidate has been suspended by the party after he claimed “you couldn’t have enough tricolours on the bonfire”.

Jim Sands made the remarks just days after Irish tricolours and election posters belonging to nationalist parties were burned on loyalist ‘Eleventh night’ bonfires across the north.

The failed election candidate described the tricolour as “the flag of a foreign, hostile country” and also defended the burning of election posters.

Mr Sands stood for election to Antrim council in 2005 and received just 38 votes.

A spokeswoman for the UUP last night said: “Jim Sands has been suspended by the Ulster Unionist Party.”

It is understood the suspension is directly linked to his comments and forms part of a wider party process.

Mr Sands made the remarks to a weekly Co Antrim newspaper saying: “What is the problem burning Republic of Ireland flags? For some the tricolour is seen as the flag of a hostile foreign country.

“Even today that country still claims jurisdiction over Northern Ireland and interferes in the affairs of Northern Ireland at every opportunity.

“For my liking you couldn’t have enough tricolours on the bonfire.”

Mr Sands also justified the burning of election posters.

“It is a peaceful way of young people expressing your displeasure at someone’s politics especially for someone too young to vote,” he said.

“Is it not better burning their posters rather than their constituency offices?

“When you listen to some people it doesn’t take too much to offend them.

“They just seem to go out of their way to be offended, sometimes even travelling miles so they can be offended,” he told the Antrim Guardian.

The latest controversy comes the area’s Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan was criticised for tweeting a picture of himself standing in front of a bonfire topped by a tricolour.

He later apologised saying it was an error of judgement.

Antrim Alliance councillor Neil Kelly hit out at Mr Sands's comments saying the burning of election posters and flags was "an act of hate designed to intimidate and threaten".

"We must move away from this type of disgraceful action if we want to build a society where all people demonstrate respect for each other," he said.

"Danny Kinahan's actions were clearly an error of judgement that should not have happened, which he apologised for. I would ask Mr Sands to reflect on his comments and do likewise."

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