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Culture minister 'sorry' for McDowell slur on Twitter

By George Jackson

Arts Minister Caral Ni Chuilin was spotted heading the wrong way down a one-way street yesterday — after doing a U-turn on her criticism of former Irish justice minister Michael McDowell.

She apologised for calling him “a complete gobsh***” on her Twitter account.

Ms Ni Chuilin, who was in Londonderry yesterday to launch Derry Corporation archives, which date from 1673 to 1901, made the comment about Mr McDowell following his appearance on an RTE current affairs programme.

The minister, whose portfolio also includes language diversity, tweeted on her Twitter account: “Yes, get the picture and white sheets and burning crosses when I listen to McDowell who is a complete gobsh***. I think McDowell would even annoy you! It's certainly worth a watch, Pat Kenny's not a great presenter, so make your own mind up.”

At 9am yesterday morning Ms Ni Chuilin again tweeted: “Need to be careful on Twitter, in danger of being satirical, witty, angry, analytic, funny, emotional, wry, critical etc — not ministerial.”

Her comments came in the wake of an attack by Mr McDowell on Martin McGuinness and his bid for the Irish presidency. Mr McDowell has long been a trenchant critic of Sinn Fein.

Initially the minister refused to comment to reporters about her tweets. Her spokesperson referred reporters to the departmental Press office, which later released the statement: “Minister Ni Chuilin manages her Twitter account herself and it represents her own views, as is usual with individual tweets.”

However, as she left Derry's Tower Museum following yesterday's archival event, the minister was pressed by reporters on her tweets. “It is a bit of a non-story, isn't it,” she said. When asked if she would be apologising to Mr. McDowell for calling him “a complete gobsh***”, Ms Ni Chuilin raised her hands and said: “Okay, I apologise.’’

She was then driven away in her ministerial car down a one-way street — going in the wrong direction.

Earlier this year Ms Ni Chuilin was criticised for appointing a convicted IRA killer as her political adviser.

Mary McArdle was part of an armed IRA gang which ambushed Magistrate Tom Travers and his family as they left Mass at Derryvolgie Avenue in south Belfast in 1984. Mr Travers' 22-year-old daughter Mary was killed in the attack. Ms McArdle (46), who was convicted of the killing, served 14 years in prison, where one of her cellmates was Caral Ni Chuilin.

Ann Travers, the sister of Mary Travers, criticised Ms McArdle's appointment saying it “physically sickened” her.

She has called on Ms McArdle to step down and has hit out at Mr McGuinness’s presidency bid.

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