A Sinn Fein councillor should apologise over what amounts to a “Brits out” call, unionists in the Craigavon area have said.
Representatives of both the DUP and UUP said a message posted on social media by Catherine Nelson – in response to the appointment of Julian Smith as NI secretary – was “offensive” and a “throwback to the old republican mantra”.
On Wednesday evening, Ms Nelson tweeted: “Brokenshire, Villiers, Bradley, Smith – all symbols of British occupation. None will ever serve the interests of the people of this island.
“Their focus is & will remain maintaining what little is left of their crumbling empire. Only way to send them home – #IrishUnity #Think32.”
DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said the tweet, which was later deleted – showed that Sinn Fein’s “warm words of mutual respect in a ‘New Ireland’ ... is nothing but spin”.
Ms Lockhart said: “When the mask slips the psychology of republicanism is still the same – Brits out, you are not welcome here, this is not your home.
“Ms Nelson must now issue an apology, recognise her offence and make clear that those who cherish their British identity in this part of the United Kingdom are at ‘home’. Failure to do so will be an insult to the office she holds and it may fall to the local government ombudsman to determine the appropriate consequence for such offensive conduct.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie tweeted: ‘British occupation’... Seriously @CatSeeley. I didn’t think you’d go for this rhetorical & damaging language. I’m British and I am home.”
Ms Nelson responded to Mr Beattie with a tweet which said: “We both know I meant British Secretary of States in the event of Irish independence and not Unionists or British Citizens.”
Mr Beattie’s party colleague councillor Julie Flaherty described the message as “grossly offensive” and a “throwback to the old republican mantra of ‘Brits out’ and a long way away from their modern mantra of ‘equality, rights and respect’, all of which are in short supply from Sinn Fein.”
Earlier this year, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald apologised after being pictured behind an “England get out of Ireland” banner at a St Patrick’s Day parde in New York.