Belfast Telegraph

DUP MLA 'satisfied offence has not been caused' after graphic political sketch tweet on Kingsmill controversy

By Claire Williamson

A DUP MLA has said he is "satisfied offence has not been caused" after he tweeted a graphic political sketch on the Kingsmill controversy.

It appeared to depict the aftermath of the Kingsmill outrage, with blood running from a bullet-riddled van.

The cartoon is titled ‘Sinn Fein’s red lines’, and beside the van is a caricature of Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and a speech bubble saying: “Equality!”

Alliance leader Naomi Long urged South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford to delete the post.

“Christopher, please. Remove this,” she tweeted. “Stop this gruesome tit for tat and show some leadership and respect.”

She added: “Don’t be part of politicising what was an obscene atrocity. Be better than this.”

Above the image, Mr Stalford wrote “Sinn Fein: offended by everything and ashamed of nothing.” He later tweeted that he would not delete the post at the “behest of the Sinn Fein Twitter mob” and would only take it down if someone connected to the Kingsmill massacre asked him to.

He then tweeted to say he had removed it after being contacted by a family member of one of those affected by the massacre.

On Thursday he said: "This was undoubtedly a hard-hitting cartoon, but it’s clear and only target is the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein. One picture says more than countless statements could about a party which claims to support victims yet sells t-shirts on its website that glorify the perpetrators and name playparks after individual terrorists.

"I said I would remove the cartoon if any of the families wished me to do so for any reason. I will not reveal the details of a private conversation but I am satisfied that offence has not been caused by highlighting Sinn Fein’s double standards.

"I will take objections from republicans more seriously when they are prepared to condemn acts of terrorism by the IRA. I would take the criticisms of some other party leaders more seriously if they were not for the fact they have implicitly offered no criticism of the cartoon’s contents or message, but simply wish to attack me for allowing more people to see that powerful message.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie retweeted the sketch without comment. He said the image was challenging and stimulated debate and insisted it should not be censored.

Speaking on the BBC Nolan show on Thursday morning Mr Beattie said he believed the picture had a "very valid political message" and that it "inspired debate".

He said he later removed the tweet but continued to debate.

He said: "I think that was worthy of a political debate.

"It was a fair thing to share and I was in the middle of that debate. I remained in debate talking about that very image, I didn't shy away from it.

"I was asked by a friend on twitter to remove it. They asked would I consider removing it and I took it down. But I did not stop the debate and argued for the case that it was a valid thing to put up. The message is absolutely valid. The debate was already ongoing.

"I think it's right and proper that I should be involved in that debate."

He added: "I removed that image about two hours after I put it on. Everybody made their point."

In a statement Alliance leader Naomi Long said: “Given the hurt caused by this past weekend’s events relating to Kingsmill, senior political representatives sharing this image on social media cannot have been unaware of the impact their actions would have."

She added: "It is irresponsible, inflammatory and insulting behaviour which is unbecoming of their role.

“Artists, of course, have a right to freedom of expression, and will often use images which are provocative or even grotesque in order to make their point. However, we are not artists, comedians, or satirists, we are supposed to be politicians. Our role in society is not to play the provocateur, we have a duty to show restraint and leadership and should carefully consider the impact of our words and actions on the community and the political process, and never more than when it comes to dealing with our painful and bloody past.

“Some of our elected representatives appear to be engaged in a race to the bottom, in which we will all be losers. It needs to end now. We need maturity and leadership from elected representatives and we need to reflect how we intend to address our past and those most directly affected by it with integrity and compassion, and find a way to co-exist which ensures there is no repeat of this tit for tat abuse of these actions or those which led to the creation of victims in the first place.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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