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Furore over Orange Order comparison to Ku Klux Klan by Sinn Fein candidate

By Claire Williamson

A Sinn Fein election candidate has sparked fury after he compared Orangemen to the Ku Klux Klan, asking people to "spot the difference".

Dermot Kennedy, who is standing in the Strangford constituency, caused an uproar on Twitter when he posted a picture of an Orange Order parade below a photo of the US supremacist group the KKK.

He invited his 5,000-plus followers to "spot the difference", asking for "answers on a tweet please".

The post quickly generated a furious online response, some of which the Sinn Fein candidate re-tweeted on his account.

There were calls for Sinn Fein to take action and discipline the veteran member.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland branded it "thoroughly sectarian and offensive".

He said: "Dermot Kennedy has been a member of Sinn Fein for almost 40 years and is an experienced politician as well as a businessman.

"When he contested the same seat at the 2003 Assembly election he said that he was 'keen to reach out and to work alongside unionists and fellow nationalists within Strangford to build relationships across the community'. That was what he said in public but we now know what he really thinks about us.

"On this occasion his mask has slipped and we see the sectarianism and bigotry that permeate his party."

Mr McCausland added: "Dermot Kennedy is not the first prominent member of Sinn Fein to make such a remark. In October 2000 Sinn Fein MLA Dr Dara O'Hagan compared the Orange Order to the KKK on the floor of the Assembly.

"This is a particularly nasty element of the Sinn Fein narrative but it surfaces from time to time and is part of the Sinn Fein strategy of demonising Orangemen.

"So now it's over to the leadership of Sinn Fein. What do they make of Dermot Kennedy's tweet and what are they going to do about it?"

Responding to the complaints, Mr Kennedy removed the tweet and branded it "unhelpful in building good relationships".

He said: "I have removed the tweet and accept it is unhelpful in building good relationships.

"The Orange Order could greatly assist in dispelling what it sees as misperceptions of its structures and ideals by engaging with nationalist/republican representatives and communities on the basis of equality and mutual respect."

On his Twitter page, Mr Kennedy describes the forthcoming Assembly elections as the "NorthIrish assembly election".

Mr Kennedy's post is embarrassing for Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who has made strenuous efforts to build bridges with the Orange Order in recent times. At the beginning of the year he said he would consider attending the Twelfth of July celebrations - if an invite was extended by the Orange Order.

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