Northern Ireland news

Doug Beattie: DUP 'whipping up hysteria'

Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim LAllister remove a poster of Doug Beattie with a noose attached to it during an anti-protocol rally in Lurgan, Co Armagh, on Friday
Jonathan McCambridge

THE DUP is "whipping up hysteria" over the prospect of a united Ireland to scare people into voting for them, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has claimed.

The UUP leader's comments came after a noose was placed on an election poster bearing his image ahead of an anti-protocol rally in Lurgan.

The poster was removed from a bench by fellow unionist leaders Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP and Jim Allister of the TUV.

They were later joined on a platform by prominent north Down loyalist Jamie Bryson.

Mr Beattie had been due to speak at the protest, which attracted a large crowd, but withdrew after claiming similar rallies were raising tensions.

Mr Beattie announced he would not attend protests after a hoax security alert halted a peace-building event in north Belfast which Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney had been addressing.

His constituency office in Portadown was later attacked when the front window was smashed by a brick. It is not known who was behind leaving the poster.

Mr Beattie hit out at one of the speakers at the event who referred to him as a "traitor". The UUP leader later said he would "not be bullied, intimidated or distracted".

"It is a poster and some mindless idiots have put a noose around my neck on it - they are not reflective of the vast majority of people who were there," he said.

"A poster can go in the bin, a window can be replaced. My concern for the people of Northern Ireland remains. Nothing has changed."

Mr Allister said he removed the poster from view because he felt its presentation, whether intentional or inadvertent, was "entirely inappropriate".

He said that if someone placed it to "convey malevolence", that "they were idiots".

Mr Donaldson said: "On becoming aware of the poster, I was horrified and decided to remove it.

"Unionists are united in opposing the protocol and those sowing division should step back " he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, in an attack on his unionist rivals ahead of next month's Stormont elections, Mr Beattie said there was a "sniff of desperation" about the DUP tactics.

He reiterated his position over not attending rallies in protest at the protocol, stating that he had no control over tensions being risen during the meetings.

Mr Beattie also claimed his party could win the election, but stated that he wanted intensive talks over a programme for government before he would commit to joining an executive.

During the election campaign the DUP has repeatedly claimed that Sinn Féin is planning to push for a border poll if it emerges with the most seats after May 5.

"I think it is absolutely ridiculous that anybody is saying Sinn Féin are going to be working towards a border poll after this election when Sinn Féin have been working towards a border poll since 1998," Mr Beattie said.

"There is not going to be a border poll and there is not going to be a united Ireland in my lifetime or my children's lifetime."

He accused the DUP of "whipping up fear".

"They are whipping up hysteria," he said.

"They are trying to scare people into the polling booths because it worked for them before. There is a sniff of desperation about what they are doing and I hope people can see that."

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