Doug Beattie under pressure over historical Twitter messages

Doug Beattie’s future as a political leader looked uncertain on Monday night over possibly ‘misogynistic’ messages he posted on social media before being elected to Stormont.

By Mark Rainey & David Young
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 7:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 12:44 pm

On a day when the Ulster Unionist leader was already apologising profusely for a joke about the wife of DUP rival Edwin Poots, Mr Beattie issued a further statement – saying he was “deeply ashamed and embarrassed” at the tweets dating back as far as 2011.

Mr Beattie issued a statement which referred to ‘misogyny’ as something that needed to be taken seriously, although he did not admit that any of his own tweets amounted to such.

The latest damaging material to emerge contains sexist remarks some political opponents have said were a throwback to comedy sketch shows of the 1970s.

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UUP leader Doug Beattie MLA. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

As details of the historical Twitter exchanges began to emerge on Monday, Mr Beattie posted a lengthy statement online, describing them as “totally unacceptable” and not reflective of “the opinions or values” he holds today.

During a radio interview on Monday morning, Agriculture Minister Mr Poots said his wife was “disgusted” when Mr Beattie tweeted an “incredibly hurtful” joke about her that referenced a brothel.

Mr Beattie apologised on Sunday for tweeting the joke and deleted it.

In his statement, Mr Beattie said: “Since I made my unreserved apology in relation to a tweet at the weekend I have been made aware of a number of historic tweets which I published.

“I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed by the content of these tweets. They are totally unacceptable. They do not reflect the opinions or values I hold today.

“From the time I entered politics I have made a serious effort to increase the representation of women and advocate policies which would improve the lives and wellbeing of all women and girls.

“That is where I stand and I deeply regret the fact that these historic tweets could serve to undermine that position.”

In the statement, Mr Beattie appeared to admit that his tweets could be viewed as misogynistic.

He said: “Misogyny is something which must be taken very seriously and dealt with through education, listening and understanding.

“I am sorry that in the past I have fallen short, but I will continue to listen first and foremost to the voices of women and girls. My actions going forward will be consistent with the values I hold.”

Mr Poots said his wife was “disgusted” by the weekend tweet.

“But it’s actually had a bigger impact on the rest of us, her children and myself,” he said.

Addressing the Assembly on Monday, Mr Beattie said: “We must all be mindful of our language and I’ve said so on the floor of this chamber on many occasions, we must guard against language that is both hurtful and harmful.

“Over the weekend I let my guard down and for that I am truly sorry. I posted a joke and regardless of what my intentions were, it was just inappropriate.

“It was absolutely wrong and fundamentally wrong and therefore it’s important that I stand here and I say to Mr and Mrs Poots that I am sorry for the hurt that I may have caused.

“But I have to say to wider society that my language was wrong at every level and I have to apologise to all of them.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said misogyny online was a “huge problem”.

She said: “For those in political leadership that engage in that everyday sexism and think it’s a joke, that’s just disgusting in itself.

“That’s not political leadership. Political leadership is calling out things whenever it’s wrong and in this case misogyny online is a huge problem.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “There is no place for misogyny in our society. We need to take a zero tolerance approach. Politicians, male politicians in particular, need to set an example.

“We have a huge responsibility to call out misogyny in other men – Doug Beattie has totally failed the leadership test on this issue.”

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