Northern Ireland

DUP: Dineen Walker apologises for calling Anna Lo racist

Dineen Walker
Image caption Dineen Walker has now withdrawn her comment about the Alliance Party's Anna Lo

Newtownabbey deputy lord mayor Dineen Walker has apologised after calling Alliance MLA Anna Lo "racist" on social media, the DUP has said.

On Thursday, Ms Lo said she would not be standing for re-election and had been a victim of racist abuse.

Commenting on the BBC Newsline Facebook page, Ms Walker said: "Funny because I see Anna Lo as racist! Towards the people of Northern Ireland."

Ms Walker is understood to be the DUP candidate for Newtownabbey mayor.

However, other parties have questioned her suitability.

Alliance councillor Billy Webb said: "I am appalled and outraged by these disgusting comments by an elected representative.

"I believe that she was to be the DUP choice for mayor of Newtownabbey Council, however, Alliance will be opposing her appointment as we do not believe she can hold the top civic position in Newtownabbey after she made these comments.

"If we are to reduce tension in our society and combat racism, then the last thing we need is a councillor making such a stupid remark.

"I would call on her to apologise and retract her comments."

'Simply ridiculous'

The Ulster Unionist Party has also criticised Ms Walker for her remarks and said the DUP should reconsider nominating her for the position of mayor on Monday.

Councillor Mark Cosgrove said: "I have worked with Dineen for the last three years, but I am disappointed with her comments regarding Anna Lo.

"I may disagree with many of her political views, but to call Anna Lo a racist is simply ridiculous and is only likely to further alienate our ethnic minorities who have enriched the UK in so many ways."

"There must be no grey areas when utterly condemning the twin evils of sectarianism and racism.

"I am confident that these views would certainly not be shared by the people of Newtownabbey and must place a huge question mark on Dineen's suitability to become the first citizen at our AGM on Monday night and I am calling on the DUP to reflect on that in the coming days."

'Extremely offensive'

SDLP councillor Noreen McClelland said Ms Walker's comments were "extremely offensive" and "highly inflammatory".

Image caption Anna Lo said she had recently been the victim of racist abuse

"Elected representatives must be aware of the impacts of such statements," she said.

"Calling Anna Lo a racist against the people of Northern Ireland was extremely offensive.

"Anna is a well respected politician and such language from Dineen Walker is, I believe, highly inflammatory.

"I appreciate the statement has been withdrawn, but it should not have been made in the first place."

The BBC also understands Sinn Féin councillors on Newtownabbey council are now unlikely to support Ms Walker's mayoral bid.

Last week, Ms Walker failed to be elected to the new Antrim and Newtownabbey super council.

'Language was wrong'

In a statement, a spokesperson for the DUP said: "Dineen Walker's comments in no way represent the views of the Democratic Unionist Party.

"Although we have profound political differences with Anna Lo, and do not support her pro-united Ireland stance, it is simply wrong to accuse her of racism," they said.

"Such language is wrong and Dineen has removed the comment acknowledging that she read the news report incorrectly.

"Councillor Walker has also apologised for the remarks."

Newtownabbey Council is due to meet on Monday evening to elect a new mayor for the final year of the council's operation.

More on this story

Around the BBC