SDLP MLA clarifies 'Brits' social media post after Londonderry bombing
An SDLP MLA has been widely criticised after posting on social media "not even the appalling behaviour of the Brits towards Ireland justifies this" following the car bomb attack in Londonderry.
East Londonderry MLA John Dallat posted the comment on his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts shortly after a car bomb exploded outside a court house on Bishop Street in the city.
He has since said the reference to "Brits" referred to the British government and "no-one else."
The post on Facebook read: "Whoever put that bomb in Derry has just stabbed their own people in the back same as before. Not even the appalling behaviour of the Brits towards Ireland can justify this."
He also posted on Twitter: "On John Hume's birthday the bombers have yet again stabbed him in the back in his native city. They are a shame and a disgrace. Not even the appalling behaviour of the Brits towards Ireland justifies this."
Mr Dallat told the Belfast Telegraph his comments related to the "current political crisis" around Brexit and the harm that he believes will be done to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
He said: "I said this because I suspect that those who planted the bomb may have had this in mind and I condemn them without any qualification whatsoever."
He added: "If anyone feels offended I regret that and in hindsight my posting could have been better framed given the misinterpretation and the subsequent abuse posted on social media.
"The term ‘Brit’ in my vocabulary is an abbreviation for ‘British’ and nothing more. It is used every day without question and that is how it should be."
Referring to Northern Ireland's violent past, the MLA said: "It was wrong in the past and any attempt to reintroduce it will have the same appalling effects and we all know what that is. I would dread if anything I said would contribute in any way to that. The truth is my posting was intended to convey the very opposite."
UUP councillor Richard Holmes praised the condemnation of the bombing "from all sides" but said that the "party line seems to have been lost" on Mr Dallat.
He said: "Whilst ‘Brits’ may have positive connotations in other parts of the world, here in Northern Ireland it has always been used in derogatory language by republicans towards Northern Ireland unionists and other UK citizens.
“Politicians need to be careful of their language and qualifying acts of terrorism whilst belittling communities with words couched in hatred does nothing to heal divisions nor build a society fit for our children.
"I’m disappointed that an MLA of John Dallat’s standing has resorted to such crass commentary.”
Mr Dallat's comments have also been slammed on social media.
One user wrote: "And I used to think John Dallat was the reasonable face of nationalism. As someone said, the mask slipped. Shame on your narrow mindedness John."
Another said: "The Brits? Words fail me. You are talking about over 1/2 (half) of the population of Northern Ireland. When did the SDLP become the old Sinn Fein?"
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton has said the PSNI believes the attack was carried out by dissident republican group the New IRA.
The bomb exploded at 8.09pm on Saturday. No injuries have been reported.
Two men have been arrested and our currently in custody.
Belfast Telegraph Digital