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‘I accept my comments have added to hurt’: TUV’s Jim Allister in apology over David Tweed tribute


David Tweed (Photo: PA)

David Tweed (Photo: PA)

David Tweed (Photo: PA)

TUV leader Jim Allister has apologised over comments he made in the aftermath of the death of former Ireland rugby player David Tweed.

Tweed died in a road crash when he was riding his motorcycle near Dunseverick, Co Antrim, last month.

The 61-year-old was jailed for child sex abuse in 2012. His convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in October 2016. He had served four years of an eight-year sentence.

Since his death, several members of his family have come forward to say they had been abused by him as young children.

His family members have urged those politicians who paid tribute to the former DUP and TUV politician to reflect on their words. 

Mr Allister had previously stood by his remarks saying he was entitled to express condolences to those grieving family members. 

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In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Allister added: “I am the least important person in the controversy that has followed the sudden death of David Tweed. It is the family members who matter, all of them, whatever side of the issues they are on.

“My intention by offering my condolences in the immediate aftermath of Mr Tweed's passing was to extend my sympathies to those family members who are grieving.

"In light of misconstruction of my motives and intentions I unequivocally repeat that I and my party never have and never will condone paedophilia in any shape or form, irrespective of where it arises.”

He added: “Mr Tweed’s daughters are clearly hurting. I accept and am sorry that some of my comments, whether as reported or because they could have been better chosen, have added in any way to such hurt.

“I have always and continue to urge anyone with allegations of criminality to go to the police in a timely manner, even when it is very difficult because of familial relationship.”

Previously DUP members Ian Paisley and Mervyn Storey said it was never their intention to add to the hurt of his victims.

In a joint statement released through the DUP website, the two senior party members acknowledged “the horrific abuse” they had suffered.

“We expressed our condolence to those who mourned David Tweed’s death, but we would want nothing in our statements to take away from the subsequent powerful and distressing words of his daughters,” the statement said.

“They have bravely told of the horrific abuse they suffered.”

It added: “It was never our intention to add to the hurt suffered, not would we ever be dismissive of any victim of abuse. No one could be but devastated by these accounts, and we have always sought to support and enable abuse victims to come forward by supporting Women’s Aid and other fantastic organisations.”

In an interview with Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme, Mr Allister accused the BBC of wanting him to “condemn our courts” and said the corporation “has lost the run of themselves” and should “be looking to its professionalism in how it has handled this story”.

He also questioned “what was disrespectful” in the tribute he issued following the death.

Mr Allister also said he would be happy to meet with members of the Tweed family privately.

Last week five of Tweed’s daughters waived their right to anonymity to reveal the extent of his abuse, branding him "the Tweedophile".

Following Tweed’s death TUV leader Jim Allister said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of his passing and described him as a "larger than life character".

“I expressed acknowledgment of a death. I recognised that some members of that family are grieving, some appear not to be, but when someone dies it is courteous in the area to express condolences to those grieving members of the family,” Mr Allister said when asked about his tribute..

“I notice many things have been said since that weren't said when Mr Tweed was alive. I wonder why. I recognise that the courts took a view on Mr Tweed’s behaviour.

“The due process of the law has to count for something.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and emphasise those who feel wronged and feel they were a victim of whatever type and description, of course I do.

“But I am not going to be bullied into saying that the court was wrong to acquit, that seems to be the demand, that I as a public representative should repudiate our courts. I am not in that business.”

Mr Allister was further questioned about the use of the phrase “larger than life” and rejected claims this was disrespectful to Tweed’s daughters.

“Wasn’t he a larger than life character? He was physically large he was a man of considerable presence. I don’t see that as any sort of insult to anyone,” Mr Allister added.

“It is a natural phrase that comes to mind in respect of Mr Tweed.”

Tweed, a father-of-four, made more than 30 appearances for Ulster and was capped four times for Ireland after he made his international debut against France in the 1995 Five Nations championship. He remains the oldest debutant for the country.

In a statement a BBC NI spokesperson said: “We do not recognise the description used by Mr Allister of our reporting and we have carried his statements in full during our coverage of the claims made about David Tweed by his family members.”

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