Paisley criticised for 'tirade' on Northern Ireland journalist McBride
Politicians from across the spectrum have united to condemn a personal attack by DUP MP Ian Paisley on News Letter journalist Sam McBride.
News Letter editor Alistair Bushe accused Mr Paisley of trying to undermine the newspaper and its political editor.
He demanded that the MP withdraw his "false accusations" and apologise to Mr McBride.
In his Saturday column, the journalist suggested that the DUP had prioritised opposition to an Irish Language Act over resisting change to Northern Ireland's abortion law.
In a Facebook post, Mr Paisley accused him of spreading "a lie from the deepest pit of hell", and alleged he was a "despicable and low character". He said Mr McBride had gone to a Christian school "and those who know him must be thoroughly ashamed of him".
In a separate Facebook post, Ballymena DUP councillor John Carson said he was sure Mr McBrides' parents were "disgusted" at him. He also suggested a boycott of the News Letter by DUP voters, asking if that happened "will Sam McBride have a job"?
Mr McBride last night said: "It is healthy for politicians and journalists to engage in robust debate and I passionately believe in free speech. However, it is unacceptable for Mr Paisley to misrepresent what I have written, denigrate me by peddling falsehoods and for some of his party colleagues to then extend this to my family. One of Mr Paisley's false accusations was to claim that I was anti-Christian.
"It is unfortunate that his apparent fervour in this area did not extend to declining luxurious hospitality from a foreign regime which persecutes those who read the Bible."
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the "personal attack on Sam McBride is extremely disappointing, but typical of Mr Paisley, in that it is a clear example of where he has played the man rather than the ball.
"For others to drag Sam's parents into social media attacks is pathetic. I and my party have been on the receiving end of harsh media criticism but as long as it is factual and non-partisan, that is their right and their job."
TUV leader Jim Allister said politicians should respond to criticism factually, not "launch a tirade of abuse against an individual" and bring in their family.
Alliance leader Naomi Long said journalists were there to "ask questions, challenge and analyse" and she called on the DUP to take action against its MP.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International condemned the attack on a journalist of "great integrity". Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion said she was "disgusted" at Mr Paisley's allegations which were "the lowest of low". SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley also expressed solidarity with the journalist.
NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said he was writing to Mr Paisley who had "gone beyond the bounds of acceptable political discourse" in an attack "unworthy of an MP".
A DUP spokesperson said it disagreed with Mr McBride's analysis, but added: "Concentration should be on the analysis rather than the author."