UUP's Palmer sorry after use of word dogs in exchange over refugees construed as racist
Ulster Unionist MLA Jenny Palmer has apologised for a comment on social media which some users interpreted as a slur comparing immigrants to dogs.
The Stephen Nolan BBC radio programme reported how Jenny Palmer admitted the comments may have appeared racist but they were not her views and she was attempting a joke.
The Lagan Valley representative made the remarks on Facebook.
It came after one user made an offensive comment in relation to stopping illegal immigrants, with another questioning why an MLA had not taken immigrants into their own home.
The Nolan Show reported that Ms Palmer added: "I have two dogs, don't need anymore, thank you."
She ended her post with the text speak "lol" meaning laugh out loud.
When challenged by another user who said they were shocked by the comments, she denied she was comparing refugees to dogs.
"Not at all perhaps bad grammar, just no room at 18a for anymore visitors sorry you misunderstood and will try better," she responded. The post has since been deleted.
In a statement to the Nolan Show, Ms Palmer said: "I would like first of all to apologise for any hurt that my careless words may have caused. These comments and actions do not reflect my own views.
"My words, made in reply to a Facebook comment, were intended as a joking remark regarding the busy-ness of my own home. The intention was to imply that between myself, my husband, our dogs and my daughter, we would struggle to accommodate anyone else. This was meant as a simple joke.
"However, as a later comment pointed out, my reply could easily have been misinterpreted as a racist or xenophobic comment. Particularly if taken without context or knowledge of my home.
"As soon as I was made aware of the offensive nature of the comment, I rectified my actions. I would again stress that those words do not reflect my viewpoint whatsoever.
"My actions and comment were genuine mistakes. While these actions were mistakes, I take responsibility for them. As an elected official, I must hold myself to higher standards.
"I apologise unambiguously and will endeavour to ensure that my social media activity is more carefully considered in future."
A UUP spokeswoman added: "We should respond to human tragedy with compassion. I would repeat what our party leader said in September 2015 - that to ignore the refugee crisis would be to lose sight of our common humanity.
"The Ulster Unionist Party supports efforts to deliver a fair and workable solution to the ongoing refugee crisis being caused by terrorism and conflict in the Middle East.
"This was reflected in our support for the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme, and when the Government reached a compromise with Lord Dubs to resettle unaccompanied child refugees in the UK.
"Jenny Palmer has apologised for her comments and accepts that they were wholly inappropriate."