Belfast Telegraph

Je Suis Sammy...is this an MP who could benefit from taking lessons?

By Chris Kilpatrick

A senior unionist politician has been told to apologise for calling Assembly colleagues jihadists.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson was also accused of being crass and insensitive after reworking the Je Suis Charlie slogan - calling for people to back him under the banner "Je Suis Sammy".

The phrase, French for "I am Charlie", is a slogan adopted by supporters of free speech and freedom of expression after last week's massacre in which 12 people were killed at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Mr Wilson, a former finance minister, sparked a fierce backlash on the social network yesterday when he tweeted: "Je Suis Sammy". He also hit out at "Assembly jihadists".

Remarks made by Mr Wilson last October, when he called TUV leader Jim Allister a "thug", were referred to the Assembly Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain.

Mr Wilson posted: "Interrogated at behest of Assembly jihadists by watchdog D Bain for being nasty to J Allister.

"Starting free speech campaign: Je Suis Sammy."

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said Mr Wilson should apologise.

He said: "There's a lot of things go on social media done on the spur of the moment.

"It just sounds more in bad taste than anything. It's not something you make a flippant remark of."

Jim Allister's party, the TUV, also rounded on Mr Wilson, saying: "It is already obvious from the reaction online that the public see a vast difference between an MLA being investigated for an alleged breach of Assembly standards - an investigation which was not instigated by the TUV but by the SDLP - and the murder of journalists and innocent civilians in France last week.

"Mr Wilson's tweet can only be described as crass and insensitive.

"The slogan Je Suis Charlie has spread across the world as a battle cry for Press freedom.

"I very much doubt if a hashtag used to defend conduct while trying to deflect from questions aimed at a special advisor will catch on in the same fashion."

Mr Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph he stood by the post on his Twitter feed.

"A complaint was made because I was nasty to Jim Allister," he said.

"We have a debating forum in which robust language is frequently used and I'm glad.

"It shows a bit of colour, a bit of passion and we have these jihadists who wish to sanitise the Assembly and any time somebody makes a remark they don't like they are running to whoever is in charge."

Asked about the Je Suis Sammy remark, Mr Wilson, said: "I will campaign for that freedom of speech to be continued and that's why I said I want people to back the Je Suis Sammy campaign. People identify the campaign for free speech with that kind of slogan.

"I'm saying exactly the same in the Assembly context, people should have the freedom to say what they wish."

Factfile

Last October a Stormont committee was cut short after TUV leader Jim Allister was branded a "thug" by the DUP's Sammy Wilson.

He was accused of "bullying" a witness - special adviser Stephen Brimstone.

Jim Allister took exception to the comment, and chairman - Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey - asked the ex-finance minister to withdraw it.

"I am going to have to ask you Sammy, you need to reflect on that remark," he said.

Refusing to do so, the hearing was then suspended by Mr Maskey.

Afterwards, the SDLP's Dolores Kelly claimed Mr Wilson had "crossed the line" and said she would be referring the matter to the Assembly watchdog.

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