A women’s rights campaigner has encouraged Doug Beattie to seek help addressing misogyny.
Elaine Crory, who has just been appointed as special adviser to the Westminster Women and Equalities Committee, told the Belfast Telegraph that she was “eager to have a conversation” with the embattled Ulster Unionist leader, adding that such a move would be “a huge first step”.
Mr Beattie is staying in charge of the UUP despite the emergence of a series of damaging historic tweets and a recent derogatory post referring to DUP veteran Edwin Poots’ wife.
Mr Beattie has apologised for the tweets and insisted he is not a misogynist.
Ms Crory, whose full time job at the Women’s Resource and Development Agency in Belfast includes the Raise Your Voice Project, which tackles sexual harassment and sexual violence, said she was “disappointed but not thoroughly surprised” by Mr Beattie.
“We live in a society where misogyny is far more common than we’d like to admit,” she said.
“It’s not that surprising that some of our politicians express these types of views.”
The mother-of-two said Military Cross recipient Mr Beattie’s Army past is no excuse for his behaviour, and said it requires action on his part.
“I would love to see Doug Beattie going through this process, learning about it, then coming out at the end of it and saying that the culture he was steeped in was actually an unhealthy coping mechanism,” she said.
“We need coping mechanisms when we’re in a dangerous, risky line of work but there is dark humour, and then there is dark humour that punches down.
“Some people might go home and lead a successful, normal life as a political leader but there are plenty of others who go home scarred and traumatised and because they’ve no healthy coping mechanisms they might end up in a worse situation than somebody like Doug Beattie.”
Her comments came as three Sinn Fein MLAs apologised for historical tweets containing offensive language.
Following tweeted apologies from Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Jemma Dolan, South Down MLA Sinead Ennis and Mid Ulster MLA Emma Sheerin on Wednesday afternoon, Ms Crory said misogyny “can’t be solved by simply sanitising Twitter timelines”.
“To me, whether you’re very manicured online and careful about what you say, or whether you’re quite expressive is not really the issue,” she said.
“There are politicians who hold misogynist, racist or homophobic views,” she added, speaking generally.
“The problem is that your employer, your partner, your friends, your family could also hold those views. There are far more misogynists out there than you think."
She added: “Some people are reacting with horror to what Doug Beattie posted — and some of the things he wrote were atrocious, appalling and embarrassing — but do they laugh along when their friend says something similar in the pub?
“If you’re laughing along then you’re contributing to the same thing, just in a less obvious way.”
Earlier this week, Mr Beattie said he would demonstrate that he was remorseful by working with organisations such as Women’s Aid.
And Ms Crory said she was open to dialogue with any politician “as long as they’re not doing these things just to make them look good to the public”.
“It would be very welcoming to see a person humbling themselves, to come and learn and then committing to engaging in this kind of work, whether it be within his own party, his own community.
“With Doug Beattie having also expressed certain things about Muslims and people with disabilities, he should be reaching out to those communities and talking to them as well.”
The Women and Equalities Committee, which Ms Crory will now be advising, was appointed by the House of Commons in June 2015.
It monitors the Government's performance on equalities (sex, age, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, pregnancy and maternity, marriage or civil partnership status) issues.
Specifically, she will focus on the committee’s investigation on preventing violence against women and girls, a subject brought to the fore by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer.
“I'm hoping to get a chance to really look in depth at the causes of VAWG (violence against women and girls) and what can be done about it,” she said.
“It's a massive, centuries old problem, and it will be a bit like turning an ocean liner. But I'm excited to try it in another forum.
“I hope this inquiry will look at the root causes and how to prevent the views that cause the violence from growing up inside young men in the first place,” she said. "Young people don’t believe things unless they’re taught those things.
"We need to find out how that is happening and make it stop.”