Northern Ireland news

Alliance MLA apologises for labelling unionists and nationalists 'sectarian'

Kellie Armstrong

AN ALLIANCE MLA who suggested unionists and nationalists are sectarian has apologised for the "poorly worded" social media post.

Strangford representative Kellie Armstrong sparked a online spat on Thursday night with a response to a tweet by her party colleague and Alliance Westminster candidate Paula Bradshaw.

When asked if the SDLP's South Belfast candidate Claire Hanna was "non-sectarian", Ms Armstrong asked: "Can unionists or nationalists be non-sectarian?"

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon subsequently waded in with: "I see with an election in the offing, Alliance are back with their - all nationalists and unionists are sectarian - narrative. It's offensive and it's wrong."

Ms Armstrong then defended her tweet, posting: "I stated that Paula is, like me, non-sectarian. I asked the question because I wanted it answered.

"In my experience, nationalist and unionist parties enable sectarianism by excluding others from an equal vote eg cross community votes."

But then early afternoon the Strangford MLA tweeted an apology.

"Last night I asked a poorly worded question that wasn't directed at Claire Hanna, who I respect, or anyone else with a unionist or nationalist identity.

"I apologise for any hurt caused, it wasn't intended."

Ms Armstrong added that it was possible to be a unionist/nationalist and not sectarian, adding "ie Paula Bradshaw".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood welcomed the apology.

“I wasn't shocked but I was incredibly disappointed this morning to see senior Alliance Party representatives question the anti-sectarian credentials of all nationalists and unionists," the Foyle MLA said.

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