A Sinn Fein MLA who just three months ago ‘liked’ – she says without realising – an online comment with the words “f*** Arlene Foster” has condemned as “disrespectful and nasty” a Church of Ireland minister’s remark linking Michelle O’Neill’s hair and IRA bombs.
Jemma Dolan, who was elected in March’s Assembly election, denounced as “extraordinary and outrageous” the comments by Canon Mark Watson at an event to support Tom Elliott’s election campaign.
According to a report in the Impartial Reporter newspaper in Fermanagh, the Rev Watson told the event that he was glad that hydrogen peroxide is dying hair blonde and not “going into creamery cans to make explosives”.
The rector of Trory and Killadeas reportedly told the gathering of unionists: “Our friend the first minister mentioned the blondes.
“I am glad they are blondes because it means the hydrogen peroxide that’s dying the hair isn’t going into creamery cans to make explosives,” before joking: “I hope there are no Press about or I’ve just lost my job”.
The comment alluded to Sinn Fein’s denunciation of Mrs Foster’s interview last weekend in which she was asked to play a word association game and used the word “blonde” to describe Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader, before going on to praise Ms O’Neill’s physical appearance.
Ms Dolan said that the Rev Watson’s “sexist and outrageous remarks” should be condemned and added: “Tom Elliott and Arlene Foster were both at this event. I’m calling on them to dissociate themselves immediately from this sexist, disrespectful and nasty commentary.”
However, in February Ms Dolan liked a Facebook post which said “f**k Arlene Foster” and “down with the DUP”.
After the media asked about the issue at the time, Sinn Fein said that Ms Dolan told the Fermanagh Herald that she had mistakenly liked the post, which included a video of her and Gerry Adams, without realising that it was abusive of Mrs Foster and that she would not have done so had she realised that it contained the derogatory message.
Several days after the election – in which a central plank of the Sinn Fein campaign had been for the DUP to show “respect” – Ms Dolan’s ‘like’ was criticised at the time by Sinn Fein colleague Conor Murphy.
Meanwhile, Mr Elliott – the unionist unity candidate for re-election in Fermanagh-South Tyrone – has said that the people of the area deserve representation at Westminster.
He said: “We are constantly told by Sinn Fein that sending Northern Ireland MPs to Westminster doesn’t matter, that they don’t make a difference. If this is the case how come they send their one Northern Ireland MEP to the European Parliament with its 751 members?”
The former Ulster Unionist leader, who has a battle to retain the seat he won from Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew in 2015, added: “The truth is, instead of working hard for their constituents in Parliament, Sinn Fein has been shouting from the sidelines, with no influence and leaving their constituents with no voice.
“There is no point electing glorified lobbyists.”