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Doug Beattie admits he was ‘on cusp’ of resigning, as ‘broken’ leader to meet with UUP to decide future over tweets

  • Leader says he is ‘ashamed’ of historical tweets and said he is ‘broken’
  • Mr Beattie says he has ‘isolated himself’ from family over tweets

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UUP leader Doug Beattie. Credit: Liam McBurney

UUP leader Doug Beattie. Credit: Liam McBurney

UUP leader Doug Beattie. Credit: Liam McBurney

An emotional Doug Beattie has claimed he was “on the cusp” of resigning as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party after a raft of historical tweets from his account emerged overnight.

Mr Beattie told BBC’s Talkback show he feels “quite broken” and, sounding emotional, Mr Beattie said he had been strongly considering resigning as the scandal had become “damaging to the party”.

He claimed others in the party encouraged him to stay and “engage”.

He said he will “take soundings” from those within the party on his future, as he denied accusations he was a racist or a misogynist. 

“I have a few very close friends who rang me because I had withdrawn and gave me advice. Our group of MLAs are very close and we look after each other,” he told BBC’s Talkback.

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"I think I offered my resignation and people said let’s engage and see where we go. 

"What I will not accept is that this is my party’s fault. People cannot point the finger at them. It is me that needs to apologise.”

Mr Beattie also confirmed during the interview that the tweets were not posted “through drink”.

He added: “I have never had an easy life, so I’ll take whatever I have to take. If I believe in what I believe, and I do believe Northern Ireland deserves better, it maybe needs better than me. Maybe that’s what I need to do.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Beattie told BBC’s Nolan Show that the tweets – which have seen the leader accused of misogynistic behaviour and inappropriate references to ethnic minorities – are “pretty horrific, pretty horrendous”.

“I am deeply ashamed, deeply embarrassed by it. I can apologise day and night about this it wont change what I did ten years ago,” he said.

"I think people can change. I want to affect change in Northern Ireland. I want to effect change in people and some of that change is within ourselves. I am not the person portrayed in these tweets today. I am not going to give any excuses for it.”

On Monday Mr Beattie apologised in the Stormont Assembly over a tweet he shared on Saturday evening joking about the wife of Edwin Poots and referencing a brothel.

DUP Stormont minister Edwin Poots said his wife was "disgusted" after Mr Beattie tweeted a joke about her that referenced a brothel.

Mr Poots said the tweet by the UUP leader on Saturday night was "incredibly hurtful".

Mr Beattie apologised on Sunday for tweeting the joke and deleted it.

During the interview with Mr Nolan, a number of the tweets were put to Mr Beattie. One of the tweets included a reference to English football supporters dressing in historical crusader costumes and referenced Muslims being “victims”.

Denying he was Islamophobic, the former soldier who served in Afghanistan over a decade ago said: “The point I was trying to make was they are not doing this to offend anybody this is just the way they dress to support their team. That people shouldn’t look for outrage in regards to that.

"I have defended Islam I have defended the Muslim faith. I will completely refute anybody who thinks I have an issue with Islam or Muslims. It is just simply not true.”

The former Army officer suggested the "dark and black humour" he used may have been a "coping" mechanism and reflective of him being "desensitised" by battlefield experiences.

"My mental health has been affected by what I have seen and what I have done," he said.

But Mr Beattie insisted he is not using that potential explanation as an "excuse" for his tweets.

In another tweet from 2012, Mr Beattie asked a user on the platform: “Who is this girl with large breasts?”

Mr Beattie admitted he was “absolutely objectifying women”.

"I have to project myself back ten yeas to look at this, to look at where I was in my life. If I look back ten years I was still in a very male dominated environment I was still in the military,” he added.

"I suppose that toxic testosterone was still there. That was still in myself. I guess in that period of my life there was a dark humour within me. I don’t think I did [look at women as sexual objects]. It is clearly misogynistic. It is not me, it is not who I am.”

In another tweet referencing a woman wearing a Christmas jumper with two pudding symbols over her chest, Mr Beattie said it was “just awful”.

"I am sitting here and embarrassed. I am ashamed that I wrote that. I can’t justify that in any shape or form. People can argue that I am trying to use a bit of humour, whatever they want, but it is wrong, simply wrong – I have no excuse,” he said.

Mr Beattie said the emergence of the tweets has led to him to “withdraw” from his family and friends, as he said his “confidence is gone”.

"I have withdrawn from all those people who I normally lean on from support. I have isolated myself,” he added.

"I am sitting here as somebody who did things ten years ago. It is not reflective of my leadership of the party. This was before I was in politics. These things are difficult to deal with. I have accepted time and time again it was wrong at every level.”

Since the emergence of a raft of tweets from over a decade ago on Mr Beattie’s Twitter timeline, other political leaders have criticised the UUP leader, with Green Party leader Clare Bailey claiming he should “seriously consider his position”.

Ms Bailey claimed “nobody gets a personality transplant” and said his tweets have “really demonstrated deeply disturbing attitudes”.

Referencing a party motto used by the Ulster Unionist Party and Mr Beattie, she told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “If this is his union of people he can certainly count me out.”

"Nobody gets a personality transplant when they take elected office so his tweets have really demonstrated deeply disturbing attitudes, not only to women, but to Muslims, to travellers - there has been slurs about people with mental illness.”

Ms Bailey added that Mr Beattie “needs to seriously consider his position”.

The DUP MLA Diane Dodds told the Nolan Show the tweets were “deeply troubling” and said the posts were “sexist” and “racist” and said there are “very vile”.

"I think people will be repulsed by them. They are particularly against women, deeply sexist and misogynistic,” she added.

A number of Ulster Unionist Party representatives have come out publicly to support the embattled leader.

North Belfast UUP candidate Julie-Anne Corr-Johnson tweeted: “There is no other leader I trust more with my children’s future than Doug Beattie.”

North Down UUP candidate Naomi McBurney said: “I respect Doug Beattie and what he has delivered and can continue to deliver for Northern Ireland. I stand with Doug as leader.”

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon said she was “shocked” by the tweets.

"I have had a number of political meetings with Doug Beattie and if you had of presented me with those tweets and said they were from a politician, one of the last names I would have thought of was Doug.

"What I am so shocked at is that it is not just one off the cuff tweet, it is the volume here and the level and they are deeply offensive and seem to have been relentless during that period and targeting women in particular but a wide range of minority groups.

"I suppose the question I have is why did Doug think it is ok to publish all those tweets in the first instance? Why did he not recognise before this that it was wrong and take them down? And why did he post another offensive joke as recently as Saturday? I am just very shocked by it all and deeply disappointed.”

When asked if he should resign, Ms Mallon said it was a matter for the UUP and “the women who are party members”.

"I think if Doug does stay he has a huge amount of work here to do to rebuild trust, particularly with females and to reassure women and other minority groups that he doesn’t still hold these views deep down,” she added.


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