Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Emma Pengelly reminds academic she has 'arts degree from Ulster University'

South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly
South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly has found herself under fire again on Twitter after she appeared to tell an academic that she was more qualified to understand the Brexit withdrawal agreement than they were.

Dr Katy Hayward from the sociology department at Queen's University had commented on a speech given by Co Antrim-born Labour MP Kate Hoey over the weekend.

"How bold. To speak out on behalf of Northern Ireland, while standing beneath the slogan: 'Believe in Britain'," Dr Hayward had written.

Mrs Little-Pengelly criticised the academic and in the ensuing debate she tweeted: "Withdrawal agreement is a legal text.

"With the greatest of respect, I will trust my judgement as a barrister to understand it rather than Katy, who may be qualified as an academic but who is a sociologist with an arts degree from Ulster University."

She added in a further response: "Obviously my knowledge of the law is greater as a Barrister rather than Katy as a sociologist??"

While her original tweet was quickly deleted, it was still spotted by other former Ulster University graduates who took exception.

The South Belfast MP later appeared contrite, tweeting that she had actually taught and lectured at the university.

"It was a badly worded tweet that did not say what I was intending to, hence I deleted it immediately" she said.

"We all word things badly at times.

"I know people want to use it to attack me nevertheless."

Author and Ulster University graduate Claire Allan called on politicians to think carefully about what they're saying before posting on social media.

"The nature of Twitter is such that it's all too easy to react in a knee-jerk fashion and hit send without really thinking about the nuances of your language," she said.

"A lot of us have done it.

"However, there should be an extra onus on elected officials to think about the impact of their words."

The DUP said: "Mrs Little-Pengelly was responding to a specific comment challenging her relative capabilities on this issue.

"She acknowledged the tweet could have been misread and removed it in less than a minute after responding.

"In a previous role, Mrs Little-Pengelly taught and lectured law in the Ulster University and continues to work closely in support of the university.

"No offence was intended in any way."

Professor of law and social justice Grainne McKeever, who is also co-director of the Ulster University law clinic, described Mrs Little-Pengelly's tweet as "very disappointing".

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