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TUV dig at Foster by reference to late father provokes furious DUP backlash

By Nevin Farrell

Published 14/12/2015

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

The DUP last night demanded an apology from the TUV after it used her late father's name to launch a highly personal attack on Arlene Foster, who is expected to become First Minister next year.

The DUP Finance Minister is expected to take over both the leadership of her own party and the Stormont Executive when Peter Robinson steps down on January 11.

Last week she said she would set aside her differences with Sinn Fein for the good of Northern Ireland.

But yesterday, the Fermanagh TUV official Facebook page appeared to suggest that this would be betraying the memory of her late father, a policeman who was shot by the IRA.

"Arlene Foster said she will 'set aside her differences with Sinn Fein for the good of the country'. Does that include the attempted murder of her school bus driver? Does that include the attempted murder of her dad Johnny Kelly?" the anonymous TUV commenter said.

John Kelly died at the age of 81 in 2011. The former RUC man survived being shot in the head by the IRA in 1979.

But the remarks quickly attracted a backlash on social media, including some from a relative of Mrs Foster.

"Who gives Fermanagh TUV the right to talk about the late Johnny Kelly?" asked Glenn Keenan. "As a grandson I find it completely disrespectful and out of place. As a politician everyone is entitled to their view on Arlene but you have no right to talk about my grandfather."

Fermanagh TUV replied: "There is no disrespect shown to your grandfather. Johnny Kelly was an honourable man who served his country. He was loyal to that country and to the uniform he wore. Like many your grandfather was someone who was admired and respected. He was a victim of the Troubles but a survivor."

One critic described the initial TUV comments as an "absolutely disgraceful personal attack, using Arlene's late father to score points".

Another user said: "I am no lover of Arlene but that post is scraping the barrel talking about her dad and Ernie."

'Ernie' is believed to be Ernie Wilson, a school bus driver and part-time UDR soldier. He was badly injured when his bus was blown up in an IRA bomb attack in Lisnaskea in 1988. Mrs Foster was one of his passengers.

Last Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of Mrs Foster's father's death.

On Facebook that day, the Fermanagh MLA wrote that she "couldn't help but wonder what he would say to me about all the news... Miss you."

A DUP spokesman said last night: "As Mrs Foster marked the anniversary of her dad's passing the comments were below the belt and say a lot about the party making such remarks. TUV should apologise and delete the comments."

The TUV did not respond to calls for a comment.

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