Belfast Telegraph

'Take away women's right to drive' - SDLP candidate Martin McAuley's tweet slated

By Noel McAdam

Social media comments by an SDLP election candidate on women drivers have been branded "sexist, silly and immature".

The tweets by the nationalist party's North Belfast standard-bearer Martin McAuley were made when he last stood for election, as an independent, in 2010.

Mr McAuley was Northern Ireland's youngest Westminster candidate, aged 19, when he tweeted: "If the women don't like it, I say take away their right to drive. That'll give the feminists something to whinge about."

He added in another tweet: "I said I would be tough on women drivers last year.

"I'm gradually trying to become less chauvinistic towards them. Baby steps."

The Alliance Party, whose candidate Sam Nelson is opposing Mr McAuley in the constituency, strongly criticised the tweets.

"They are sexist, silly and immature," he said.

"We would hope he now realises that and they don't reflect his current views on women as a parliamentary candidate in 2017."

Mr McAuley said he had been responding to spoof posters and admitted he was not the best driver himself.

He added: "The tweets were absolutely meant sarcastically, in reference to the spoof posters that people had mocked up with my face on them.

"I have a fair skillset, but driving isn't high up there, so I'm not in a position to criticise anyone else's ability.

"Diversity in public life is something I'm passionate about, and I've worked with the Commissioner for Public Appointments to make sure more women, young people and people from minority communities are represented in decision making."

One woman who re-posted the tweets later added: "A vote for Martin McAuley in North Belfast is a vote for a progressive candidate."

Meanwhile, the row between the DUP and Sinn Fein over Arlene Foster referring to northern leader Michelle O'Neill as an "attractive blonde" has continued to simmer.

Sinn Fein activists accused East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell of "distraction politics" after he said that if republicans were interested in consideration for women, they should start with Disappeared victim Jean McConville.

The west Belfast mother-of-10 was abducted from her home in front of her children in November 1972 by the IRA and later shot dead.

On Twitter, Mr Campbell dismissed Sinn Fein's demands for an apology as "nonsense" and also mentioned the widow of Patsy Gillespie as another example of how the republican movement treated women.

Mr Gillespie was a civilian cook in a Londonderry Army base who was strapped into a van loaded with explosives and forced to drive to a checkpoint on the Donegal border where the bomb was detonated.

In response, a SF spokesman said: "Gregory's tweet is clearly a crass attempt to engage in distraction politics."

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