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Alliance in clash over IRA row candidate

By Joanne Fleming

An Alliance MLA has clashed with one of his own party colleagues in a row over the selection of a Green Party council candidate in England.

Richard Stanton, who once referred to the IRA bombing of the Conservative Party conference as a "justifiable act of political warfare", will stand for the Greens in next May's local elections.

The decision prompted criticism from Tory grandee Norman Tebbit, whose wife was left paralysed after the Brighton attack.

But North Down Alliance councillor Andrew Muir released a statement expressing his surprise. He said: "I am shocked that the Green Party would select a candidate who has made such offensive and hurtful comments. It perhaps shows the Green Party's political inexperience and lack of thought for victims."

However, party colleague MLA Trevor Lunn later said on Twitter in was best for Alliance to "shut up" on this issue.

"I can safely say that the Alliance Party does not suspect the NI Greens of being apologists for terrorism," he said.

Five people died in the 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel where Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were staying. That same year, Stanton - then in Labour - justified the attack, earning him condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Green Party NI leader Steven Agnew said Mr Muir was trying to smear his party with an "artificial sectarian argument".

"The Green Party in Northern Ireland does not share the views Richard Stanton expressed 30 years ago when was a member of the Labour Party," he said.

Despite this, Mr Agnew said he was "surprised" at his English colleagues, calling on them to reflect on the decision.

"I do not envisage anybody who made should such comments ever being selected as a candidate for the GPNI and it certainly wouldn't happen under my leadership," he said.

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