The Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie has apologised after he was criticised for using racist and misogynistic language in a number of tweets from approximately ten years ago.
In a lengthy interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show on Tuesday morning Mr Beattie was asked to respond to some of the tweets, which included tweets about women and members of the Travelling community.
Asked about the tweets about women, which included sexualised comments, he said “I will absolutely accept that my tweets were misogynistic ... I am not a misogynist, they were misogynistic joke.”
He said he was “deeply sorry, and apologise to everybody, the whole of society, but certainly to women who may feel let down by myself.”
Asked about a tweet from 2011 which defined men as having two traits, “hungry and horny”, he said it was “not funny, it’s not right” and he would have to stand in front of the women in his party and explain it to them.”
He was also asked about a number of tweets which used a derogatory term for the Travelling community, including a tweet from 2011 in which he wrote “today is my last day in my old house and my first day in my new house. That’s 16 moves in 25 years and I’m not even a p****!”
Mr Beattie said: “It was wrong. It was attempted humour and I was attempting to use humour, in some cases I was disparaging about myself in using that humour, again if we are going back to that time then clearly I was using something that was wrong. I’ve moved on from that.”
In an answer to another tweet in 2013 about the use of the ‘n-word’ in the film Django Unchained, Mr Beattie responded that “In The Dambusters Richard Todd’s dog was called N*****. Certainly not designed as an insult.”
Mr Beattie said “what I was trying to do was enter a conversation, that conversation was that we used words in the past which would not be acceptable today and this is one of those words.”
Asked if he denied he was a racist, Mr Beattie said: “I’m not a racist, I’m simply not a racist in any shape or form.”
He was also asked about a tweet from 2012 in which he said “what’s needed is a few crazies sorting out mental health strategy. They’ll understand the problem without knowing they have one.”
“It’s bad, it’s awful,” he said. “I don’t know what was going through my head to write that in the manner that I was writing that ... I think what I was trying to say is that those people who suffer from mental health issues are the people who are best placed to design the support they require and I wrote it in the worst way possible and there’s no excuse for that.”
Another tweet read out to Mr Beattie said: “I had a Gurkha company under my charge for three years. They drink lots, gamble all the time and like white hookers.”
Mr Beattie responded: It’s terrible, it’s terrible, and I can’t believe that I would put something like that out there, but I did. I don’t believe it is true.
“It’s horrendous ... I did it and it was wrong to do it. It’s not a reflection of me then and it’s certainly not a reflection of me now.”
He said he had not witnessed Gurkhas using prostitutes and “it comes from a crass attempt at humour and it’s that dark humour which I seem to have used in that period ten years ago ... it is extremely demeaning.”
Asked about a retweet of a Guardian article from 2012, to which he added the comment “English fans at #euro2012 upset British muslims by dressing as knights. Always the victim - its not always about you”, he said it was “in a different context.
“That particular tweet was about English fans dressing as Crusaders, and they’ve done that as a long, long time in the same way as others dress in other similar veins, whether they are as Vikings ... and the point I was trying to make was they are not doing this to try and offend anybody this is just the way they dress in order to support their team.
“People shouldn’t look for outrage in regard to that. I have defended Islam, I have defended the Muslim faith ... I will completely refute anybody who thinks I have an issue with Islam or about Muslims and that I am racist in that regard, it’s just simply not true.”
In response to a tweet from 2013 in regard to the situation in Syria in which he said “French resolve will crumble... I’m not anti-French but those garlic munching frogs can’t be trusted”, Mr Beattie said “my choice of language is just totally unacceptable in any shape or form.
“I’ll not be the first person to do or say something wrong ... what’s important is you stand up and face your past and I’m standing up and facing what I did wrong in my past,” he said.