Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Ukip councillor unrepentant over tweet in support of Assad regime

Ukip councillor Henry Reilly
Ukip councillor Henry Reilly

A Northern Ireland councillor has defended his decision to tweet a message of support for Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.

Ukip representative Henry Reilly wrote: "Support the war on terror – Support Assad – Stop Cameron."

The Kilkeel councillor posted the message at 10.18pm on Thursday as Parliament was debating UK involvement in military action against the regime.

The tweet was later deleted.

Mr Reilly told the Belfast Telegraph that he stood by what he said in the tweet.

Asked why he removed it from his Twitter profile, he replied: "I don't really know."

The UK's joint intelligence committee concluded it is "highly likely" that Assad's regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks in Syria which killed hundreds of people.

However, Mr Reilly said he had no regrets about tweeting his support for the dictator.

"No, none at all," he added.

"If you have to make a judgment of who's the best person there – Assad or al-Qaida – then clearly it's going to be Assad.

"I've no problem discussing it – it's not an issue.

"Between Assad and any of the beligerents out there, the obvious choice is Assad."

Yesterday, the tweet had been taken down.

Mr Reilly was unable to explain why he felt the need to remove the message if he stood by its contents.

"I went through the whole lot and I took down loads of stuff."

Mr Reilly also rejected suggestions that Syria's human rights record was a case for intervention.

"Well, if we're doing that then why don't we go in and take out (Zimbabwe's president Robert) Mugabe?" he added.

"You can't do that. If you're going to be responsible on an international basis you have to try the same criteria right across the globe.

"We are trading with China, we are doing all sorts of things with people who aren't particularly nice. That is the way of the world.

"Would you think Libya is better without Gadaffi, is Iraq better without Saddam?

"That's the way you have to look at things – what is best for people."

Mr Reilly is a member of Newry and Mourne District Council, and has served the area since 1989.

The Ukip representative caused controversy earlier this year after branding journalists as "Provos" during a council meeting.

Mr Reilly made the comments during a debate on strip-searching in prisons.

While speaking in the third person, he said: "The Press, looking at Reilly with disgust when he talks, they are Provos, too, probably."

In response to a request from fellow councillors he declined to fully withdraw the remarks, and Mr Reilly said: "I haven't called the Press ... any particular journalist a Provo. I will make generalised statements that some papers have a nationalist/republican bias.

"It is a commonly held perception among the unionist community."

Mr Reilly later said the remarks were not directed at any journalist present at the meeting.

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