An Alliance Party councillor has linked the Conservative Party and the DUP with the ideology espoused by Hitler and Mussolini.
David Armitage, an east Belfast councillor, posted an image on Facebook with the text “Early warning signs of fascism”, followed by a list of 14 identifying statements, including “rampant cronyism and corruption”, “fraudulent elections” and “religion and government intertwined”.
The councillor himself wrote beside it: “With the general election offering the Tories in England and the DUP in Northern Ireland; the signs are clear.”
When contacted by the News Letter yesterday, Mr Armitage said he was “making the point: Is this the way that the nation’s going, with the two right-wing parties?”
Mr Armitage said he was not suggesting that there were elements of fascism in what the DUP and the Tories are doing “at the moment” but said he was asking “are we headed that way?”
When asked if he could understand why some people will view it as over the top to compare the ideology of the Tories and the DUP to that of Hitler and Mussolini, he said that “there are also other fascist parties around and other fascist ideologies so it’s not just focusing on them - it’s looking at the larger concept of fascism and seeing that in the trait of a divided society which means that one group’s going to be better off than other groups”.
He said that “if you look at most right-wing countries, there’s always one group of people that’s above other groups of people”.
Pressed on whether he would equate ‘right-wing’ with ‘fascist’, he said: “Not all the time, no. Both are broad groups.”
However, an hour later Mr Armitage emailed to request that his earlier interview now be regarded as “strictly off the record” and said that his only comment would be: “Given the context of current global politics, I was pointing out the dangers of divisive politics, which can create the ground for extremists to exploit.”
A DUP spokesman said: “The Alliance Party appears to be embarking upon its own insult and injury tour. First to Green Party voters and then those of the DUP and the Conservatives.
“While the DUP acts in Northern Ireland’s interests and seeks to develop a positive relationship with the likely next national Government, it seems Naomi Long’s Alliance wants to pursue the Sinn Fein strategy of chumming up to the political heavyweights Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron.”
Meanwhile, Naomi Long will stand as a candidate in East Belfast, she has confirmed, meaning that one of the most keenly contested seats from the last Westminster election will be re-fought between her and sitting DUP MP Gavin Robinson.
The Alliance leader, who stunningly defeated Peter Robinson to win the seat in 2010 before losing it two years ago, said: “In 2015, Alliance was only 2,500 votes away from defeating a five-party pact in East Belfast. People responded to our positive message of change then and I am confident voters will once again want to see that and back Alliance candidates”.