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Politicians fall foul of social media yet again

Ian Paisley Jnr re-tweeted an anti-Muslim racist comment by Katie Hopkins

Social media can be a marvellous platform for politicians, allowing them to engage with the public directly without having to go through the filter of a press office or party officials.

People can read the thoughts of an elected representative in all their immediate and unvarnished glory, reacting to events, promoting policy or retweeting other messages approvingly.

However, as some of our politicians have found to their cost, Twitter is a risky tool and in the wrong hands can cause significant damage.

Two DUP representatives are the latest public figures to trip up on social media in spectacular fashion.

On Monday, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley retweeted a message from controversial right wing commentator Katie Hopkins which contained a slur against Muslims.

Some hours later Mr Paisley issued a 'mea culpa' and an apology saying he had only 'glanced' at the tweet and didn't take cognisance of Ms Hopkins' reference to Ramadan.

Given that her original message contained a mere 16 words, there is really no excuse for failing to take the time to read it properly before retweeting.

Islamic leaders in Belfast have accepted the MP's apology but they are entitled to expect higher standards from senior politicians.

Unfortunately for the DUP, a second elected representative got himself in bother this week by retweeting a message which referred to London Mayor Sadiq Khan as the 'enemy within.'

Maurice Bradley MLA later removed the retweet and has apologised. He has also given up using Twitter which is probably wise in the circumstances.

It is worth noting the speed with which the DUP distanced itself from both retweets, perhaps a reflection of the greater scrutiny being placed on the party as a result of its confidence and supply arrangement with Theresa May's government.

Of course, the DUP is not alone in having to deal with the fallout from social media blunders.

But having demanded robust action from Sinn Féin over Barry McElduff's Kingsmill video, the party must show that offensive comments are not acceptable in the DUP and will have consequences.






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