Unionists and mental health activists have called on political commentator Kevin Meagher to apologise for his remarks about autism sufferers.
Mr Meagher has faced a backlash on social media after he compared the DUP to people with a spectrum disorder.
DUP MLA Edwin Poots said the analogy was “wholly unacceptable” and urged Mr Meagher to retract his comments, which were contained in an article published in the Huffington Post.
“It is not OK to use a disability as a means to insult others and the vast majority of right-thinking people would agree that it is totally unacceptable,” Mr Poots told the News Letter.
Mr Meagher appears to have close ties with the Labour Party, having once served as advisor to Labour secretary of state Shaun Woodward.
The Sheffield man is also associate editor of the political blog Labour Uncut.
The News Letter contacted Labour in a bid to determine if Mr Meagher is a member of the party, but we received no response at the time of going to press.
Mr Poots added: “Mr Meagher needs to apologise, but if he is a member of the Labour Party I don’t think that will be enough.
“If he is in fact a member then he should be disciplined by the party, otherwise it will be sending out a message that it is OK to mock disabled people.”
The Lagan Valley MLA also hit out at Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew for retweeting a link to Mr Meagher’s article.
“Sinn Fein should be more worried about considering how to work together with the DUP to get Stormont back up and running rather than jumping on the bandwagon any time someone attacks unionism,” he added.
Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler claimed Mr Meagher’s remarks show “a level of ignorance regarding a group of people with a disability”.
Ardie Van Der Meer of Labour Autistic Network – which seeks to “train and empower neurodivergent Labour members to get involved in politics” – said he was “horrified” by the remarks.
He told the News Letter: “The tone and language used here were completely unacceptable. People need to stop using disabilities as an insult. It is not fair on the people who struggle with mental health issues.”