Belfast Telegraph

Ex-DUP councillor Ruth Patterson claims St Patrick was 'former Protestant' as she urges loyalists to 're-think' flag protest

Patterson also revealed she disagreed with the Unionist leaflet campaign ahead of the City Hall flag protest

Expelled DUP councillor Ruth Patterson has claimed St Patrick was a "former Protestant" as she calls on those planning a flag protest on St Patrick's Day to "re-think" their plans.

The former DUP councillor has been a strong supporter of the flag protests since the council voted for its removal from Belfast City Hall in 2012.

In November she was expelled from the party over an interview in this newspaper in which she lambasted the party leadership for parachuting junior minister Emma Pengelly into the Assembly seat vacated by Jimmy Spratt.

She will now stand against her as an Independent in the South Belfast constituency.

In a blog post ahead of the planned flag protest due to take place on St Patrick's Day she said there was no "strategic or political purpose" in the protest.

Tricolour has 'nothing to do with St Patrick'

When challenged on her change of mind she claimed St Patrick's day was "naked sectarianism."

She said the Tricolour has "nothing to do with St Patrick" before claiming he was a former Protestant.

She said: "I don't want the Unionist people brought in to a situation whereby they are seen to be the bad guys.

"St Patrick's day brings along with it naked sectarianism. We see hordes of marauding youths running around Belfast City Centre Draped in Tricolours.

"At the end of the day the Tricolour has nothing to do with St Patrick, St Patrick himself was a former Protestant."

When challenged that St Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, lived 1000 years before Protestants existed following the Reformation, she said: "Yes he may have but he was a Christian man in his beliefs. I see him as being a former Protestant."

She added: "I've been brought up with understanding St Patrick came from Christian faith and taught the faith throughout the whole of Ireland.

"Whilst we want to celebrate St Patrick's Day n Northern Ireland there always seems to be a group of people who hijack the day and turn it into something that it shouldn't be."

Flag protest leaflet campaign

While she insisted in the interview that she is happy for the weekly Saturday flag protests to continue - she revealed that she did not agree with the Unionist leaflet campaign ahead of the flag protests back in 2012.

Up to 40,000  leaflets were distributed in a joint operation carried out by DUP and UUP activists.

She said: "I had no part in the leaflets. I certainly did not agree with that in any shape or form.

"They came from within the DUP but I can quite categorically say as I sat in our room within city hall I said to my party group under no circumstances will I take anything to do with the production of these leaflets, payment or delivery of these leaflets.

"She added: "You cannot lead people to the top of the hill and not go over the top with them. I feel the DUP did that at the time.

"I'm very much you lead from the front if your people are prepared to come in behind."

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