Belfast Telegraph

DUP slam police for 'sensationalist' arrest of Ruth Patterson - while distancing party from 'obnoxious' Facebook comment

Unionist councillor said a fictional terrorist attack on Castlederg republican parade would provide "a great service to Northern Ireland"

Police were accused of making a "sensationalist" arrest today after detaining a loyalist Belfast city councillor over remarks she made about a disputed parade.

Ruth Patterson, 57, a member of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson's Democratic Unionist Party, was held in relation to offences concerning the sending of grossly offensive communications and other serious criminal offences in relation to intimidation and encouraging criminal acts, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Earlier she apologised after saying that a fictional terrorist attack on a republican parade in which senior Sinn Fein members would be killed would provide "a great service to Northern Ireland".

A Democratic Unionist statement said: "We fail to understand why the police chose to conduct a sensationalist arrest rather than contact Ruth and ask her to attend an Article 10 voluntary interview."

She made the Facebook remark ahead of a planned republican rally in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, on Sunday week to commemorate the deaths of two IRA men blown up 30 years ago by a bomb which they intended to plant in the town, just a few miles from the border with Co Donegal in the Irish Republic.

Even though the Parades Commission has imposed route restrictions, loyalists have called on the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister, Theresa Villiers, to ban the march. Republicans had earlier voluntarily rerouted it from part of Castlederg.

The DUP, which has been critical of the parade, launched an investigation into the intervention of Ms Patterson, branding her comments "completely unacceptable".

Her remarks were in response to a fictional news post on the social networking site which reported that an indiscriminate gun and bomb attack had taken place in Castlederg, with a number of senior Sinn Fein members said to be among those killed.

Commenting on the post, Ms Patterson wrote: "Who cares how we would be judged, we would have done a great service to Northern Ireland and the world..."

She added: "Would I shed a tear? No. Would I loose (sic) a night's sleep? No, would I really worry about what anyone else thought? No."

After the comment came to light she issued an apology.

A DUP spokesman said the party would raise the arrest with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

"The DUP was founded on the principle that everyone should be equal under the law and equally subject to the law. Councillor Ruth Patterson has apologised for her remarks, accepted they were well below the standard expected of a public representative and not in keeping with the DUP's values and ethos," he added.

"The party officers also emphasised the unacceptable nature of these stupid and obnoxious comments and will conclude its own internal investigations."

In a message aimed at its Stormont power-sharing partners Sinn Fein, the DUP spokesman added: "If there is a legal process to be followed then we will await its outcome: others, who in the past set themselves up as judge, jury and sometimes literal executioners, should do likewise before commenting further."

Ms Patterson's controversial post has since been deleted from Facebook.

The DUP spokesman contrasted Ms Patterson's treatment with that of Sinn Fein members.

"Ruth was guilty of an error in judgment: others in Sinn Fein are guilty of far more serious crimes," he said.

A PSNI spokeman said: "When a report is made to the PSNI regarding information posted on social media sites, officers will investigate and where a criminal offence has occurred, appropriate action will be taken."

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