A DUP councillor has lodged a complaint with the vice chancellor of Queen’s University after a professor declared “hell is too good” for no-deal Brexiteers.
John Brewer, who is professor of Post Conflict Studies, caused a storm on social media with his remarks, which were in reaction to European Commission president Donald Tusk’s suggestion there will be a “special place in hell” for those who promoted Brexit without any plan for how to safely deliver it.
Prof Brewer, who has previously written about the need for forgiveness after conflict and “public tolerance and compromise”, tweeted: “Special place in hell for no deal Brexiteers? Hell is too good for them.”
DUP Ards and North Down councillor Peter Martin said that he has written to Queen’s vice chancellor Professor Ian Greer concerning the matter.
“Many of my constituents have identified themselves as ‘no-deal Brexiteers’. Free speech is valued in a democracy; but with it comes responsibility,” he stated.
While some Twitter users praised Prof Brewer for his viewpoint, others branded his comment “disgraceful” and “shameful” and some even called for him to resign.
One person wrote: “Surely a comment like that is completely contrary to your position as an educator?”
Another replied: “You really should consider the position you are in before spouting such politically motivated hatred.”
Prof Brewer responded to the reaction to his initial tweet by posting: “Hell is not real. It’s not a place. It is figurative not literal. Figurative speech for a wrong/bad place. A ‘no deal Brexit’ – which is the kind referred to – is thought by many people to be one such bad place.”
One reply to his tweet suggested those who promoted Brexit should be put in prison – a comment the academic ‘liked’.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Prof Brewer is in a position where he can influence young people and needs to think about the example he is setting them.
“A comment like that is not going to calm conflict or controversy, it is going to inflame it,” the East Antrim MP said.
“It is also an indication of how disdainful some of the academic elite are when it comes to people who take a different view from them.”
A TUV spokesperson also hit out at the professor’s remarks, saying: “The most interesting thing about these comments is the telling lack of outrage from those who put the most negative and sinister spin on anything said by someone who is pro-Brexit. Here we have a professor consigning people to eternal torment because they dare to disagree with his politics.”
In March 2016 Prof Brewer accused the News Letter of “conflict journalism” for an article about Martin McGuinness appearing at the annual victims and survivor’s conference for the first time.
Responding to a report about victims’ campaigner Ann Travers’ reaction to the former IRA leader’s appearance, Prof Brewer, tweeted that the News Letter front page headline – Victim slams ex-IRA chief – was “conflict journalism at its worst”.
He later said: “No one person represents victims, so who journalists quote as somehow speaking on behalf of victims is telling about the tone of the story and whether or not it uses that person’s narrative to help us learn to live together – or keep us stuck in the past.”
The News Letter approached Prof Brewer and Queen’s University for comment.