Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin MLAs apologise for offensive historical tweets

MLAs Emma Sheerin (left), Sinead Ennis (centre) and Jemma Dolan (right) tweeted apologies this afternoon 
David Young, PA

Three Sinn Féin MLAs have apologised for historical tweets containing offensive language.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Jemma Dolan, South Down MLA Sinead Ennis and Mid Ulster MLA Emma Sheerin tweeted apologies on Wednesday afternoon.

They came after historical tweets containing derogatory and offensive phrases and language were unearthed by BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.

The posts emerged as Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie continues to be embroiled in a controversy related to tweets he sent while still serving in the military around a decade ago.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill condemned the tweets sent by her present day party colleagues and said they were “not acceptable”.

“The comments are wrong, they are offensive and they are not acceptable language for any Sinn Fein representative to use,” she said.

“I have spoken directly with each of the MLAs and made this very clear to them.

“They have each told me they deeply regret the language used and will apologise.”

Shortly afterwards all three MLAs posted apologies on Twitter.

Ms Sheerin said: “I am deeply sorry that I used offensive terminology on social media.

“It was and is totally unacceptable.

“It is not how I would express myself today and I unreservedly apologise for the offence that these comments have caused.”

Soon after Ms Dolan posted: ”I want to apologise and say that I regret and am very sorry for the offense caused by comments I made historically on social media.

“These comments were unacceptable and do not represent in any way how I would now express myself.”

Within minutes, Ms Ennis tweeted: “I deeply regret the offensive comments I made on social media.

“I am sorry for using language which I accept was totally inappropriate and wrong. I apologise unreservedly for the offence caused.”

Yesterday, Mr Beattie implored people not to define him by his past after receiving party backing to continue in the job despite the controversy over his historical tweets.

The UUP leader said he came “very close” to quitting on Monday when a series of derogatory tweets he posted prior to entering political life came to light.

The Upper Bann MLA faced accusations of misogyny and racism over comments he posted when he was still serving as a captain in the Army.

Mr Beattie said he received the “unanimous” backing of his fellow UUP MLAs and the party’s officers to continue as leader.

The furore erupted on Saturday evening when Mr Beattie tweeted a joke that referred to the wife of political rival Edwin Poots and a brothel.

He later apologised and deleted the tweet.

The controversy escalated after focus turned to Mr Beattie’s historical conduct on Twitter and a series of contentious remarks about women, Muslims, members of the Travelling community, and people with mental health issues were unearthed.

Things took another twist yesterday when Mr Poots and his wife Glynis issued defamation proceedings against Mr Beattie.

The episode marked a dramatic turn in fortunes for Mr Beattie, who only at the weekend was rated in an opinion poll as the most popular political leader in Northern Ireland.

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