Belfast Telegraph

Newry councillor Henry Reilly apologises for 'anti-Protestant' Taoiseach tweet

Henry Reilly
Henry Reilly
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

A Northern Ireland councillor has apologised for a tweet in which he accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and former EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker of being "anti-Protestant".

Newry, Mourne and Down independent unionist councillor Henry Reilly made the comments after Mr Juncker showed the Taoiseach a 'Thank You' card he was sent by an Irish citizen.

Hailey Kierse wrote to the EU Commission President to express her gratitude for the backing Europe had given to Ireland throughout the Brexit negotiations.

Following the incident Mr Reilly asked "how could the Irish government and EU be so evil".

He posted the tweet on February 8 and it was reported to the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards.

After an investigation Councillor Reilly was required to apologise for the tweet.

On Friday the former UKIP councillor admitted it had been "offensive".

"On the 8th February 2019 I posted a tweet and, without repeating the offensive content, in summary I referred to a thank you card a Republic of Ireland resident had sent to the EU president Juncker and commented that President Juncker sharing the card contents with Irish PM Varadkar was anti-Protestant and asked how could the Irish Gov and EU be so evil," he wrote.

"I accept that the tweet was offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate for which I sincerely apologise & will in future think more carefully about the standards for elected office as specified in the Councillors Code of Conduct and reflecting the Local Government Commissioners guidance on the use of social media.”

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph Councillor Reilly said he was unable to say anything further due to a confidentiality agreement.

Leo Varadkar and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels (Michelle Devane/PA)
Leo Varadkar and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels (Michelle Devane/PA)

The incident between Mr Juncker and the Taoiseach hit the headlines in February as the Brexit negotiations dragged on.

“Mr Juncker, I will be honest I never really understood the EU. It was something we learned about in school, a part of history, more than a part of today. But your five words: Ireland’s borders are Europe’s borders made me want to jump for joy, punch my hands in the air and kiss you," the card from Mrs Kierse in Co Clare read.

“For the first time ever Ireland is stronger than Britain. That strength comes not from guns or bombs. It comes from your words, and that of your colleagues.”

“Britain does not care about peace in Northern Ireland. To them it’s a nuisance.”

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