Belfast Telegraph

80 complaints made over Belfast councillor's 'racist' tweet

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy Reporter

The Local Government Commissioner for Standards has been contacted more than 80 times over a “racist, sectarian and offensive” tweet by a Belfast City Councillor.

It is understood many of those who contacted the office wanted to lodge formal complaints against independent councillor Jolene Bunting, who posted the tweet last week.

The post depicted two frogs, one wearing a Union flag and the other wearing an Irish tricolour. The frog with the tricolour is crying, holding a pint of Guinness and wearing a hat that reads: “Please be patient I have famine”.

Accompanying the picture is the line: “C’mon Paddy, EU can leave too”.

The cartoon frog in the picture, known as “Pepe”, was adopted years ago by far-right social media trolls to target, among others, autistic children.

Around one million people died and a further one million emigrated during the Irish Potato Famine between 1845 and 1850.

Court district representative Bunting later said the tweet was simply a reference to Ireland leaving the EU and was not meant to cause offence to autistic children or make light of the famine.

Video: Jolene Bunting brands reaction to social media post 'completely ridiculous' after complaints about Irish famine tweet

Calling the fallout “ridiculous”, she took aim at “triggered leftists” for condemning the tweet and singled out Sinn Fein in particular. She said she did not read the words properly and had spotted the famine reference she would not have shared the image.

Several of the 80 individuals who contacted the commissioner are Ms Bunting’s fellow councillors, spanning a range of political parties.

Sinn Fein council group leader Deirdre Hargey called the post “racist, sectarian and offensive”, while Alliance’s Emmet McDonough-Brown branded it “not only crass but racist and sectarian”.

The DUP’s Dale Pankhurst said the tweet was “appalling and wrong” and, as a Unionist, he “wholeheartedly” condemned it.

This is not the first time Jolene Bunting has caused controversy.

SDLP representative Donal Lyons has lodged two complaints regarding councillor Bunting in the last year.

Councillor Lyons had already filed a complaint in December in relation to an “anti-Islam” video she appeared in, filmed in front of Belfast Islamic centre.

An open supporter of Britain First, Ms Bunting appears in the video alongside the group’s deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, who is currently serving a prison sentence in England for a hate crime.

Councillor Bunting's defence of a racist leaflet drop in the Ravenhill area of south Belfast as “information” also caused heated exchanges in City Hall last month.

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