Rivals support DUP's Foster and Lockhart duo after cruel online taunts about appearance
DUP leader Arlene Foster and her party colleague Carla Lockhart have been targeted by online trolls in a series of vicious attacks over their appearance.
Alliance leader Naomi Long and Sinn Fein councillor Niamh Doris came to the defence of their rivals, hitting out at those behind the campaign of abuse against the female politicians on social media.
The attacks started after Mrs Foster posted a selfie of herself with the Upper Bann MLA at the Erne West DUP dinner on Friday.
While some Twitter users posted references to Mrs Foster's evidence to the RHI Inquiry last week, a number of other cruel comments were posted about the appearance of the pair.
One of the first people to respond to the criticism was Mrs Long, who branded the posts "disgusting".
She said: "Seriously? That's a pretty low blow attacking a woman for how they look?"
In a subsequent post on Twitter, she said: "Totally out of order. No place for misogynistic abuse."
Mid Ulster councillor Ms Doris responded: "I completely agree Naomi.
"And people wonder why there is a shortage of women in politics."
There were also claims by a number of Twitter users that no one would have made such disparaging comments about the appearance of male politicians.
Mrs Long has been vocal about the misuse of Twitter by some people.
In February she hit out at "misogynistic bullying" of female politicians on Twitter.
The East Belfast MLA said she had experienced numerous remarks and accused the social media platform of failing to act.
She tweeted: "The abuse I have witnessed here of women in politics, from every party, over their appearance is misogynistic bullying designed to silence women's voices. It will not work. We are stronger.
"Twitter has policies on targeted harassment on protected grounds but will not act. Why?"
Asked online what prompted her Twitter post, she wrote: "A string of them over the last while and my own experience in the last week."
It is not the first time Mrs Foster has been targeted. Last year she described how her children were left upset by the "revolting personal abuse" she received on social media.