Belfast Telegraph

Storm over Claire Hanna 'bent out of shape' tweet during Pride event

'Suggesting I’m being homophobic while at my 17th annual pride insulting people’s intelligence a wee bit'

By Jonathan Bell

MLA Claire Hanna sparked anger after she accused a gay man of being "bent out of shape" over hostility issues.

The SDLP MLA was taking part in the Pride TalksBack event at the MAC on Monday night.

Responding to Sinn Fein LGBT chairman Michael Gray Sloan on Twitter, she denied she was "sweating" at the event over the notion of mentioning party members who have spoken against LGBT rights issues in the past. Former North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness has in the past said he "disagreed with same-sex marriage" after missing a vote in the Assembly.

After rejecting his claims, Ms Hanna then called Mr Gray Sloan a "d**k," prompting one Twitter user to say "don't hold back Claire", to which she replied: "The wee lad needs some help. Probably all bent out of shape that hostility issues like is [sic] are the biggest driver away from Irish unity and the DUP are the biggest driver for it.  Hardly blame him for being upset."

Mr Gray Sloan said he was challenging the SDLP's record on LGBT rights.

"Her response is beneath the office of MLA," he tweeted.

The tweet sparked a huge reaction on Twitter. Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill called for the South Belfast representative to withdraw the remarks.

"Claire Hanna should withdraw her needlessly crude comments made on Twitter this evening. Public representatives have a responsibility not to use language which is associated by the LGBT community with homophobia," Michelle O'Neill tweeted.

Others jumped to her defence.

"Long before it was trendy to be at Pride, before it was convenient to put our rights on election posters, and yes - before I was even brave enough to come out - @ClaireHanna has been a hard-working LGBT+ ally," said SDLP member Seamus de Faoite.

"Zealous I may be in tackling relentless spoofs on twitter," Ms Hanna responded, "but suggesting I’m being homophobic, while at my 17th annual pride, is insulting people’s intelligence a wee bit."

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