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PUP members threaten resignation over Sophie Long McGuinness' condolence tweet

By Jonny Bell

Members of the PUP have threatened to resign over a tweet about Martin McGuinness sent by the party's communications director.

In the wake of the veteran republican's death, Sophie Long tweeted: "Condolences to Martin McGuinness' family friends and comrades."

The tweet sparked a furious response on the social network

A number took to Twitter to say they were resigning.

Ian Shanks at first said if she was "not away by today" [Tuesday] then he would leave the party. He then added: "I'll give it to lunchtime, & apologise to people I know who had family members killed by the IRA."

Steven Pollock - who claimed the tweet would cost the party votes - responded: "I've already sent my resignation mate."

Winston Irvine added: "Her tweet is very insensitive and offensive to a large section of the community. Not standing by it for a second."

On Facebook Mr Shanks added: "The Officers and Members of South Belfast Progressive Unionist Party Constituency Association wish to place on record that we take no pleasure in the death of any individual.

"However, nor will we be party to any attempt to canonise Martin McGuinness as some sort of venerated Saint like figure. He was in no way any sort of 'comrade' to us and we wish to make it clear we do not in anyway agree with the recent individual comments made by Sophie Long which we expressly disassociate ourselves from.

"South Belfast Progressive Unionist Party will remember Martin McGuinness first and foremost as a senior member of the Provisional IRA who wreaked untold death and destruction on the British community of Northern Ireland, be they serving soldiers, civilian members of the community or those from our community who gave their lives in the fight against violent Irish Nationalism.

"Our thoughts today are with the families of his victims, those that will never receive any justice or answers, and those old soldiers now being dragged into court who never received any sort of "comfort letter" and who may now face the possibility of going to prison for protecting the populace of this part of the United Kingdom from Martin McGuinness and his comrades."

Some however, defended the tweet, pointing out UVF founder Gusty Spence sent a letter of condolence to the family of IRA man Joe McCann on his death.

Linda Ervine, sister-in-law of David Ervine added: "Sorry to see you on the receiving end of this unfair criticism. Haven't noticed it happening to others who have paid respects."

Others have pointed out how Gerry Adams embraced Mr Ervine's widow at his funeral.

"Well said Sophie I remember when David Ervine died how republicans reacher out with warmth and reconciliation takes guts well done," said one Twitter member in response.

Sophie Long and the PUP could not be reached for a comment.

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