Green Party leader Steven Agnew’s personal assistant has resigned from the party after he said that he did not see the point in making it illegal to be a member of a terrorist organisation.
The North Down MLA’s comments last month have led to the departure of Noelle Robinson, who less than a year ago was elected as a Green Party councillor in North Down.
He emphasised that he did not in any way support terrorism and that those funding or planning violence should be arrested. But Mr Agnew argued that arresting people for their “political views” was counter-productive and “more likely to incite terrorism rather than prevent terrorism”.
His comments came after the leader of the English Green Party said that it should not be illegal for people in the UK to join terrorist organisations such as Islamic State (IS).
Ms Robinson made clear that she did not question Mr Agnew’s utter sincerity in opposing terrorism, but said that she still could not remain in a party which wanted those groups legalised.
Yesterday the party announced Ms Robinson’s resignation, but did not make clear why she had quit.
Mr Agnew thanked the Green Party’s executive member – who he said had worked “tirelessly” for him since 2011 – for her work and expressed disappointment at her decision.
He said he was “saddened by her unexpected decision”.
Yesterday afternoon Ms Robinson issued a statement in which she apologised to the party and to those who voted for her “for any hurt caused”.
She said that it was “a point of principle,” adding: “I was disappointed that Steven went along with the belief that mere [terrorist] membership should not be regarded as a criminal offence.
“I disagree strongly with this view.
“Terrorism survives where it is supported, and, in my own view, by even joining up to one of these groups, an individual is just as culpable for its activities as those carrying out violent acts.”