TUV leader Jim Allister has rejected accusations that a tribute he paid to paedophile David Tweed following his death was “disrespectful” to the former Ireland rugby international’s victims.
Tweed (61) died in a road crash when he was riding his motorcycle near Dunseverick, Co Antrim, last month.
Tweed was jailed for child sex abuse in 2012. His convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in October 2016. He had served four years of an eight-year sentence.
Since his death, several members of his family have come forward to say they had been abused by him as young children.
In an interview with Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme, Mr Allister accused the BBC of wanting him to “condemn our courts” and said the corporation “has lost the run of themselves” and should “be looking to its professionalism in how it has handled this story”.
He also questioned “what was disrespectful” in the tribute he issued following the death.
Mr Allister also said he would be happy to meet with members of the Tweed family privately.
Last week five of Tweed’s daughters waived their right to anonymity to reveal the extent of his abuse, branding him "the Tweedophile".
Some members of the family also hit out at tributes paid to Tweed by a number of politicians from the DUP and TUV.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, DUP politicians Ian Paisley and Mervyn Storey acknowledged “the horrific abuse” they had suffered and said it was never their intention to add to any hurt suffered by Tweed’s victims.
The DUP statement followed a request made by the Belfast Telegraph for Mr Storey to comment on the tribute he made in the aftermath of Tweed’s death and whether he now regrets what he said.
Following Tweed’s death TUV leader Jim Allister said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of his passing and described him as a "larger than life character".
Mr Allister told the BBC he has “nothing to add to my statement on Friday” and said what other politicians do is “a matter for them”.
“I expressed acknowledgment of a death. I recognised that some members of that family are grieving, some appear not to be, but when someone dies it is courteous in the area to express condolences to those grieving members of the family,” Mr Allister said.
“I notice many things have been said since that weren't said when Mr Tweed was alive. I wonder why. I recognise that the courts took a view on Mr Tweed’s behaviour.
“The due process of the law has to count for something.
“That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and emphasise those who feel wronged and feel they were a victim of whatever type and description, of course I do.
“But I am not going to be bullied into saying that the court was wrong to acquit, that seems to be the demand, that I as a public representative should repudiate our courts. I am not in that business.”
Tweed’s stepdaughter Amanda Brown, who had been abused by the second row forward from the age of eight, criticised the three veteran politicians, telling the BBC: “It’s one thing passing on condolences to the family, but to then honour him as a great man, I didn’t think that was ok.”
Mr Allister was further questioned about the use of the phrase “larger than life” and rejected claims this was disrespectful to Tweed’s daughters.
“Wasn’t he a larger than life character? He was physically large he was a man of considerable presence. I don’t see that as any sort of insult to anyone,” Mr Allister added.
“It is a natural phrase that comes to mind in respect of Mr Tweed.
“How did I disrespect anyone by saying I express condolences to those grieving on the passing of an individual that I described his family as well respected in the Ballymoney and Dunloy areas? How did that disrespect anyone?
“I am not going to disrespect a court finding which in the end was acquittal. Is that what the BBC wants me to do, to condemn our courts?
“The order book of the Court of Appeal will say ‘conviction quashed’ that is what it will say. If that doesn’t suit the BBC narrative, I am sorry.”
Mr Allister added: “I understand there is a grieving family in respect of members of his family who were very close to David Tweed and there seems to be an aspect of the family that is anything but grieving that is a matter for them.
“My purpose in this is not to be vexatious or to visit discomfort or hurt on anyone. One of Mr Tweed’s sisters was my near neighbour for many years. I know she is grieving over him. Am I not to say I am sorry your brother was killed in a traffic accident? Is that now beyond what the BBC allows?”
Tweed, a father-of-four, made more than 30 appearances for Ulster and was capped four times for Ireland after he made his international debut against France in the 1995 Five Nations championship.
Tweed’s sister Hazel McAllister (59) told the Sunday World newspaper there were “lots of things still to come out” about her brother.
She also criticised the sentence given to him, and said he should “still be in jail for what he did”.
In a statement a BBC NI spokesperson said: “We do not recognise the description used by Mr Allister of our reporting and we have carried his statements in full during our coverage of the claims made about David Tweed by his family members.”