Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Jim Wells 'didn't see masked loyalists' at protest he attended in Ballynahinch

Jim Wells at the protest where some covered their faces
Jim Wells at the protest where some covered their faces
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A DUP MLA has said he did not see masked men at a loyalist protest against Sinn Fein in Ballynahinch.

Jim Wells joined a group of protesters on Sunday to object against a Sinn Fein election rally.

Some protesters were seen covering their faces with hoods while others shouted "scum" at the Sinn Fein representatives.

Mr Wells, who has had the DUP whip removed due to a disagreement with the party, was also criticised for saying Sinn Fein wasn't welcome in the "unionist town" as it made victims of IRA violence feel uncomfortable.

"I didn't actually see the people who covered their face," Mr Wells told the Belfast Telegraph.

"There were photographers present so I suppose some people were worried if their boss saw them they would be in trouble. I don't think there was anything more sinister than that and it wasn't an acrimonious protest."

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard accused Mr Wells and other protesters of trying to "shout down" the event for their candidate Marianne Clearly.

Mr Wells responded: "Let's be honest.

"There was a discussion between the two sides and the police were brought in, both sides stuck rigidly to those rules.

"There was absolutely no bother, the loyalists far outnumbered Sinn Fein.

"They could have chased them out of Ballynahinch, but there was no intention of doing that whatsoever."

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