Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City councillor reported to Commissioner for Standards over “racist, sectarian and offensive” tweet

Warning: This article contains an image some may find offensive

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy reporter

A Belfast City councillor has been reported to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards over a “racist, sectarian and offensive” tweet.

Independent councillor Jolene Bunting, who has previously caused controversy by associating with and supporting far-right group Britain First, posted the tweet on Thursday afternoon.

It depicts two frogs, one wearing a union jack and the other wearing an Irish tricolour. The frog in the irish flag 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”.

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

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

Sinn Fein council group leader Deirdre Hargey said she has lodged formal complaints with the Local Government Commissioner for Standards (LGCS) and Belfast City Council over the tweet, which she branded “racist, sectarian and offensive”.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown also filed a complaint with the LGCS, calling the tweet “not only crass but racist and sectarian”.

“There is no place in our politics for this. Depressingly, it seems there is no prejudice she [Jolene Bunting] is unwilling to support,” he added.

SDLP representative Donal Lyons had already filed a complaint with the LGCS regarding Councillor Bunting in December in relation to an “anti-Islam” video she appeared in, which was filmed in front of Belfast Islamic centre.

In relation to Ms Bunting’s latest social media controversy, Councillor Lyons said posting a caricature which has “sectarian and racist undertones” is “disgusting and offensive in itself” and adds further weight to his previous complaint.

“But sharing an image which makes fun of autistic children is beyond disgusting. It beggars belief that this has been posted by somebody holding elected office,” he added.

“The cartoon frog ‘Pepe’ which Jolene shared was adopted a number of years ago by racist and extreme-right trolls.

“It’s been used to attack different groups and the particular version that Jolene shared was aimed at autistic children. Twisting a phrase that’s used to help children with autism and turning it into a sectarian jag about the famine is beyond contemptible.”

Members of the public also took to social media to condemn the tweet.

“This is what an elected councillor of Belfast City Council decided to tweet. Shameful and frankly embarrassing,” one wrote.

Another said the tweet displays “a pretty fundamental alt-right mindset that mocks mental illness whilst painting their political opponents as somehow mentally disabled”.

“Ireland is shown here to be a disabled child and to be mocked. That's the message of this meme. From a councilor for our city,” they added.

This is not the first time the Greater Shankill representative has caused a stir over her controversial views.

Councillor Bunting caused heated exchanges last month in the council chambers after appearing to defend a racist leaflet drop in the Ravenhill area of Belfast as “information”.

The leaflets purported to be from a group called 'Generation Sparta' and warned against the 'Islamification' of Northern Ireland and contained several racist messages. Police have confirmed they are treating the leaflet drop as a hate crime.

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