Alliance leader Naomi Long has apologised to anyone who was offended by her support for a social media comment which mocked loyalist Jamie Bryson’s minor speech impediment.
During an online debate over Alliance Party policies on Sunday, several people interjected into the conversation between the pair by making derogatory comments about Mr Bryson’s speech.
Mrs Long ‘liked’ the most offensive tweet, which later resulted in the British Stammering Association saying that ridiculing speech impediments is bullying and that she should apologise for any intimidation it may have caused to others who seriously struggle with such conditions.
Asked if verbal abuse about speech impediments would constitute a hate crime on grounds of disability, a PSNI spokeswoman said that they had received no complaints and therefore were unable to investigate further.
The Equality Commission also inspected the tweets to see if there had been any discrimination on grounds of disability. A spokeswoman said: “It looks like this issue was resolved yesterday, so no comment is necessary.”
Mrs Long said she had not even seen the offensive tweet and must have accidentally pressed the button to “like” it.
However, she and Mr Bryson continued to interact on Twitter on Tuesday.
Mr Bryson said: “I think Alliance have really become the ‘nasty party’ & they really need to tone down their social media. @naomi_long presents herself as the most righteous politician ever to live. She should offer a public apology. That is what she would demand of others.”
But Mrs Long insisted she had not intended to make any personal attack on him.
“Jamie, I would never mock your speech – ever... We’ve argued many times & not once has it ever descended to the personal on your part or mine,” she said.
Another poster then interjected: “Sorry, is sometimes the hardest word to say.”
Mrs Long responded: “Not at all. If I’m wrong, I apologise. It was accidental, not intentional but if it has caused any hurt, upset or offence to Jamie or anyone else, I am absolutely sorry for that.
“I would never mock anyone for a disability or how they look. Anyone who knows me, knows that.”
After the matter was in the News Letter on Tuesday, some social media posters this time targeted Mrs Long with highly offensive personal remarks.
Mr Bryson responded: “Personal abuse of anyone is wrong. I have previously called out personal abuse of Naomi. No one should have to endure personal abuse being hurled at them, regardless of political views or backgrounds.”