Belfast Telegraph

Suicide charity reinstates Green Party member O'Hara over tweet row - DUP's Pankhurst 'appalled'

By Jonathan Bell

A Green Party activist suspended from the board of suicide prevention charity Lighthouse has been reinstated after a complaint from a DUP member.

Malachai O'Hara was suspended from the charity after he claimed that the DUP is "killing kids across the country" with homophobia.

In a tweet to one of his 2,171 followers on the day Dale Pankhurst was co-opted onto Belfast City Council he advised a follower to "go see the DUP and Dale and tell them their homophobia is killing kids across the country".

Mr Pankhurst said he was disgusted at the comment and complained to the charity. He rejected any suggestion he or his party were homophobic.

Lighthouse suspended Mr O'Hara to hold an investigation. On Friday it confirmed it has completed its complaints process.

It did not uphold the complaint, but said it was "concerned" with the tone of the social media postings "as it is counter to the ethos of the organisation, which is fundamentally about treating each other with respect".

It said the comments made by Mr O'Hara were "research based". It has offered to convene a "workshop" to address the issues raised for "all the body politic".

Councillor Pankhurst said he was "appalled" at the outcome and would be considering his options.

"They have washed their hands of the matter," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I said this could have been resolved by an apology and instead I have been offered to attend a workshop. It is ridiculous."

The Oldpark councillor re-asserted he was not in anyway homophobic.

"I have been in the job for just three weeks and I have already represented people from the New Lodge on housing issues. No matter who you are, your religious background or sexual orientation I will help you."

Mr O'Hara welcomed the outcome of the investigation.

"I am glad to be able to return to the important role of helping save lives as a board member at Lighthouse," he said.

In a statement, Lighthouse added: "On January 29, 2018 a complaint was received by Lighthouse and has been dealt with through Lighthouse complaints procedure. Parties to the complaint have been notified of the outcome and Lighthouse will not be making any further comment with regard to this matter.

"We would ask people to be respectful of Lighthouse aims and objectives and also of each other. In moving forward, Lighthouse will continue with its work of saving lives and supporting families."

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