DUP MP denies sectarianism as call to rename bus stop sparks derision
DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly has said she was representing constituents when she questioned the name of the Short Strand stop for the new Belfast Rapid Transit service.
She sought to play down the row that has erupted over her intervention, saying: "This is not a sectarian issue at all. It's part of the constituency service I offer if people or residents come to me."
Translink says there are no plans to rename the Short Strand stop, despite Mrs Little-Pengelly writing to express "serious concerns" ahead of the introduction of the new Glider buses.
The company said the new stop "replaces a Metro shelter which has traditionally been named 'Short Strand'".
The MP has attracted criticism, with Alliance leader Naomi Long saying she could not understand why the name of the stop was an issue
She posted on Twitter: "The halts are in pairs, though. Hence the naming convention. They're effectively the same stop: one country-bound halt, one city bound, but both with the same name/location descriptor.
"Honestly trying to understand why it's an issue to use the name already given on the stops?" she wrote.
Sinn Fein Senator and former Lord Mayor of Belfast Niall O Donnghaile said that there was a history of the stop being named 'Short Strand'.
He wrote: "Is this real? MP for South (not East) Belfast, taking issue with the naming of a Rapid Transit stop adjacent to Short Strand actually being called 'Short Strand'?
"It is so good to know MPs (from outside constituencies) are keeping themselves busy with such important work."
But Mrs Little-Pengelly explained: "I would make representations on behalf of a constituent. As MPs we do this across many, many issues, hundreds of issues across the constituency.
"I think my record is absolutely clear. I talk about all the big issues, including Brexit, about trying to stand up for Northern Ireland in terms of business growth, particularly for South Belfast.
"But of course any constituency MP or public representative will also deal with a range of smaller issues. This is not a case of what's wrong (the Short Strand name). Constituents who had contacted me in the South Belfast area, which comes down to that section, simply said the name had gone up, it is called 'Short Strand'.
"This is not 'Short Strand', this is the Lower Woodstock and Albertbridge Road area.
"It was simply requested for me to speak to Translink and see if it could be changed."
She has been informed by Transport NI that the stops had already been named and would not be changed as the stop was paired with the halt at Short Strand.
She has now requested a meeting with Transport NI alongside East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson to discuss the naming policy and express her concerns.
"I am therefore not happy that the halt has now been physically named in such an inaccurate way," she wrote in a letter to a constituent.
She said that she would be speaking with constituents to gauge their views on the issue and setting up a petition for the renaming of the stop.
"In addition, this does not reflect either the area or the history of the area in which the stop is situated" she added.
After the reaction on social media, she said: "I now realise that there has been confusion about this issue.
"My letter references the halt at the Lower Woodstock side of the Albertbridge Road, South Belfast. I have never made any representations about the name of the halt at Short Strand, East Belfast on the other side of the Albertbridge Road."