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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 19 September 2021

DUP councillor in court over Republican parade Facebook comments

Ruth Patterson is contesting the charge of sending a “grossly offensive” electronic message.

Patterson flanked by supporters as she leaves the courthouse
Patterson flanked by supporters as she leaves the courthouse
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

BELFAST DUP COUNCILLOR Ruth Patterson has appeared in court in the city charged with sending a grossly offensive message via Facebook.

The councillor for Balmoral was arrested earlier this month following a conversation on the social media site in which she responded to a fictional attack on a planned parade in Tyrone in which Sinn Féin members were killed.

She said the attack would have been “a great service to Northern Ireland”.

The 57-year-old – a former deputy lord mayor of Belfast – later apologised for her comments, saying they were made as a result of a “lapse of judgement”:

I completely withdraw this flawed Facebook comment. Murder and terrorism can never be justified in any circumstances.

Appearing today at Belfast Magistrates Court, Patterson was shielded from press cameras by supporters carrying umbrellas as she entered and exited the courthouse.

Senior DUP figures – inluding MP Sammy Wilson and Health Minister Edwin Poots – were amongst those who turned out to show their support for the councillor.

According to BBC reporter Mervyn Jess, Patterson’s lawyer told the court she would be contesting the charge – an announcement that was met with applause from the gallery.

In the wake of the initial controversy, Sinn Féin labelled the comments “totally irresponsible and highly dangerous” and called on the DUP to distance itself from the councillor.

The case is due back before the court in October.


Supporters block TV crews from filming (Paul Faith/PA Wire)

Read: DUP councillor Ruth Patterson arrested over Facebook comments

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