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UUP backs Doug Beattie to continue as leader following tweet scandal

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Dpug beatties

Dpug beatties

PA

Dpug beatties

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has received the unanimous support of his party MLAs and party officers to continue as leader.

Mr Beattie had earlier on Tuesday said he would let his party decide on whether he should continue as leader after accusations of misogyny and racism over a number of tweets, for which he has apologised.

Deputy leader Robbie Butler said at Stormont on Tuesday afternoon: "That is not to detract from the seriousness or how serious the party leader takes the incidents that happened and those things which are a matter of public record at this time. What I would like to do is pay tribute to the party leader for the manner in which he has responded and how serious he takes this issue and these events and those conversations I know he will be open to at over this next while to redress the hurt that has been caused."

Doug Beattie said: "I have had detailed conversations with all of my MLAs, I apologised for what I had done directly to each one of them and then I spoke (about) whether or not I still had their support to remain as party leader - overwhelmingly every one of them said 'yes, I did'.

"So I have support from my MLAs.

"But I also spoke with party officers and the party chairman about party officers who also had a discussion around the issue and I have support also from party officers."

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Mr Beattie said the support was "unanimous".

The UUP leader Mr Beattie earlier denied he was racist or misogynistic while admitting that the tweets were "pretty horrific" and he was "deeply ashamed" of them. He later told the PA news agency he had received the backing of his party.

The tweets, many of which date back to before Mr Beattie joined the UUP in 2014, feature derogatory comments about women and Muslims, racist slurs and offensive terms for Travellers. 

Mr Beattie said the tweets are "not who I am".

On Tuesday, the UUP leader told BBC's The Nolan Show: "I will speak to my MLA group today and I will speak to my party officers, if either group feels I should step down then I will.

"Likewise if they think I should refer myself to the party executive or the wider council on a vote of no confidence then I shall do that as well."

Mr Beattie later told Talkback that he had been "on the cusp" of resigning as leader on Monday. "I feel quite broken," he said.

He added: "I've never had an easy life so I'll take whatever I have to take.

"I suppose if I believe in what I believe, and I do believe - that Northern Ireland deserves better, but maybe it needs better than me.”

Meanwhile, agricultural minister Edwin Poots has instructed solicitors to issue defamation proceedings against Doug Beattie and Tory MP Simon Hoare over an offensive tweet concerning the DUP politician’s wife.


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