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UUP leader gets 'unanimous' support from his party amid alleged racist and misogynistic tweets

Doug Beattie has apologised for the tweets written before he entered political life.

UUP leader Doug Beattie.
UUP leader Doug Beattie.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Jan 25th 2022, 4:12 PM

THE ULSTER UNIONIST Party leader has said he has received the support of his party’s MLAs amid a controversy over some of his historical tweets.

Doug Beattie has faced accusations of misogyny and racism over the content of tweets posted before he entered political life.

The Upper Bann MLA conceded the posts, the majority written around a decade ago, were “horrendous and horrific”.

Some of the posts contained ethnic stereotypes, disparaging comments about those with disabilities and several were related to women cooking and doing housework. 

Beattie denied being racist or misogynistic and said he was “extremely embarrassed and extremely ashamed” about the social media posts.

Speaking earlier on BBC Radio Ulster, he said he would speak to party officers about whether he should refer himself to the party executive or whether a confidence vote is necessary. 

This afternoon, Beattie has said he received the unanimous support of his party MLAs and party officers.

“I have had detailed conversations with all of my MLAs, I apologised for what I had done directly to each one of them and then I spoke (about) whether or not I still had their support to remain as party leader – overwhelmingly every one of them said ‘yes, I did’,” Beattie told reporters today.

“So I have support from my MLAs. But I also spoke with party officers and the party chairman about party officers who also had a discussion around the issue and I have support also from party officers.”

Beattie said the support was “unanimous” but that conversations would continue with other UUP members over the historical tweets.

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PastedImage-27519 Source: Twitter/katienichleire

Speaking to The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster, the former soldier suggested the “dark and black humour” he used may have been a “coping” mechanism and reflective of him being “desensitised” by battlefield experiences.

“My mental health has been affected by what I have seen and what I have done,” he said.

Beattie insisted he is not using that potential explanation as an “excuse” for his tweets.

“I don’t want anybody to think I’m giving an excuse because I am simply not, it was wrong and I am deeply sorry,” he said.

He said he was asking his party for a second chance.

Whether or not my party feels that I am the leader who can lead them into the election and beyond will be their decision and I will abide by that decision. It the party want me to stay I will still be the leader next week, if they don’t want me to stay I will not be the party leader next week.

He added: “I am asking people to look at the person I am now and not judge me on the person I was 10 years ago.”

The furore has erupted after Beattie posted a joke on Twitter on Saturday evening that referenced the wife of a political rival and a brothel.

DUP Stormont minister Edwin Poots said his wife was “disgusted” by the joke.

Beattie apologised for the post and deleted it.

He reiterated that apology on the floor on the Assembly on Monday, insisting he was “truly sorry”.

However, the controversy then escalated after focus turned to Beattie’s historical conduct on Twitter.

A series of derogatory messages came to light referencing women, Muslims, members of the Travelling community and people with mental health issues.

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It has marked a dramatic turn of fortunes for Beattie.

He posted the tweet on Saturday evening hours after a newspaper opinion poll indicated he was the most popular political leader in Northern Ireland.

He said his confidence had been rocked by the controversy and he had isolated himself from friends and loved ones.

“I have to pick myself up and come out of the shadows and face this head on,” he said.

Taoiseach

In the Dáil this afternoon, Aontú TD Peadar Tóbín said there was “no place for the tweets in the modern day” and he called for Beattie’s resignation. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Beattie “has made clear himself how unacceptable his tweets were”.

Reacting yesterday to the controversy  SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that Beattie had “failed” a leadership test. 

“There is no place for misogyny in our society. We need to take a zero tolerance approach. Politicians, male politicians in particular, need to set an example. We have a huge responsibility to call out misogyny in other men – Doug Beattie has totally failed the leadership test on this issue,” he said.

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon MLA said yesterday the UUP leader must reflect on his actions.

“Those who shamelessly and loosely disrespect women only hold us back from equality. These comments are not funny. They are offensive and misogynistic and deserve condemnation. Doug must reflect on his actions and retract these deplorable statements but also join the rest of us in the battle to protect and enhance women’s rights in our society.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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