Unionist MLAs defend sharing hard-hitting Kingsmill massacre sketch
Two unionist politicians at the centre of a new Kingsmill Twitter row have defended their right to share a controversial satirical cartoon of the massacre.
The graphic image, entitled 'Sinn Fein's Red Lines', depicts the gruesome aftermath of the 1976 IRA shooting and shows 10 lines of blood running from a bullet-riddled van. Beside the van is a caricature of Gerry Adams and a speech bubble saying 'Equality!'.
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie provoked outrage when he shared the sketch by Belfast artist Brian John Spencer on Wednesday, as did the DUP's Christopher Stalford.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long criticised both MLAs, calling their behaviour "inflammatory and insulting".
But Mr Beattie said he had no regrets about sharing the cartoon.
"What's happened here with all the outcry about my decision to share it, is that the very clear and very important message of the cartoon, and the reason I shared it, is getting lost," he said.
"What it did was call Sinn Fein out on how its respect and equality agenda sits alongside the fact it has not yet, despite all the fallout of the last week, managed to condemn the butchery of those 10 innocent men at Kingsmill.
"That's why I shared it - because that's a strong and vital message to get out there and debate."
Mr Beattie said he had spoken to one member of the Kingsmill families, who told the Upper Bann MLA he was not offended by his post. However, he removed it when asked to do so by a friend.
South Belfast MLA Mr Stalford said he was satisfied no offence had been caused by his tweet.
"This was undoubtedly a hard-hitting cartoon, but its clear and only target is the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein," he said.
"One picture says more than countless statements could about a party which claims to support victims yet sells T-shirts on its website that glorify the perpetrators and names play parks after individual terrorists. I said I would remove the cartoon if any of the families wished me to do so for any reason.
"I will not reveal the details of a private conversation, but I am satisfied that offence has not been caused by highlighting Sinn Fein's double standards.
"I will take objections from republicans more seriously when they are prepared to condemn acts of terrorism by the IRA."