Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin's 'putrid statelet' tweet criticised

Alex Maskey Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Mr Maskey described criticism of his tweet as "faux outrage"

Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has been criticised for describing Northern Ireland as a "putrid little statelet".

Mr Maskey tweeted: "Unfortunately it took more than the CRA (Civil Rights Association) to secure rights in the putrid little statelet NI."

The comments were posted in response to an unrelated tweet from SDLP leader Colm Eastwood commenting on the 100th anniversary of women's voting rights

Unionists have described Mr Maskey's remarks as offensive.

They also claimed his comments appeared to "justify terrorism".

Mr Maskey's tweet was in reply to Mr Eastwood's tweet in which he said: "We can't forget that it took the Civil Rights Association here to ensure that all people got full access to voting rights."

Image copyright Twitter

The DUP's South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly said: "Alex Maskey's description of Northern Ireland as a 'putrid little statelet' exemplifies a continued attitude of disrespect within Sinn Féin.

"This is all the more offensive, as the reference is within a tweet appearing to justify terrorism.

"Time and time again, we see Sinn Féin representatives demanding standards from others which they are unwilling to uphold themselves.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Emma Little Pengelly said Sinn Féin representatives demand standards from others which they are unwilling to uphold themselves

"We are entitled to know whether such comments are representative of [Sinn Féin president-elect] Mary Lou McDonald's view when she talks about 'unionist brothers and sisters'."

'Founded on discrimination'

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie said Mr Maskey's comments prove that Sinn Féin "do not know the meaning of the word, 'respect'".

"We could have got to where we are today without the murder of a single person, let alone almost 3,600 men women and children, and we could have a society where fair and honest political aims could be sought without the spectre of murder," he said.

"This country we live in - Northern Ireland - is not a putrid statelet.

"It is home to 1.8 million people who just want to get on with their lives and peacefully seek what is best for them, their families and their community."

Traditional Unionist Voice leader, Jim Allister, said: "The many victims of IRA terrorism will be in no doubt as to what Maskey was referring to."

In a later statement, Mr Maskey said: "The northern state was a unionist-dominated apartheid state, founded on religious and civil discrimination and which denied citizens fundamental rights such as the right to vote.

'Faux outrage'

"Peaceful civil rights demonstrators were beaten off the streets in an effort to crush the demands for civil and human rights, special powers were used to suppress protest, and the state forces played an active role in sectarian pogroms of the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s.

"The Unionist party presided over all of that.

"Faux outrage by some unionists at my comments ignore the facts that a wide range of people from the Civil Rights Association, right through to progressive unionists, opposed this sectarian discrimination and demanded civil and human rights for all."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Colum Eastwood said violence resulted in only death and division

Mr Eastwood also released a statement in response to Mr Maskey's tweet, insisting that the Civil Rights Association "achieved more in 18 months that all the years of violence that followed".

The SDLP leader said: "The only thing achieved by violence was the hardening of hearts and the filling of graves. That reality might be uncomfortable for people like Alex Maskey and Sinn Féin but it is a truth that can't be unwritten or rewritten.

"If Alex disagrees with that analysis, if he believes that violence here actually achieved something, then I'm more than happy to have that debate with the Sinn Féin leadership."