A DUP councillor has apologised after he used the derogatory term ‘Mong’ referring to a thief who stole his motorbike.
Cllr Robert Smith, who is standing for re-election to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, had been admonished by parents of children with Downs Syndrome following the remarks.
On Sunday, after a robbery, Cllr Smith wrote on Facebook: “My motorbike has been stolen from my house in Tandragee sometime through the night by mongs. Please share but I’m sure it’s parts by now. Honda CBR-125-R. Very distinctive colours and rare.”
His use of the term ‘Mong’ was challenged and he edited his post to the following: “My motorbike has been stolen from my house in Tandragee sometime through the night by ‘scum’. (If that’s OK a term) (To the person who took offence at what I had up! If you thought for one millisecond that I was referring to people with disabilities, you really need to get a life) I think you knew full well what I meant but sure, put your own spin on it!! But for everyone who can still think straight; Please Share but I’m sure the bike is in parts by now. Honda CBR-125-R. Very distinctive colours and rare. Chassis No; MLHJC39A895100322 Engine No: JC39E5100322.”
Ulster Unionist Cllr Julie Flaherty said she had received a number of complaints and had been sent a screen shot of the comments by a mother of a child with Downs Syndrome. “She had pointed out to Cllr Smith that what he had said was offensive. People need to be careful about their words because words matter to the parents of those children.
“I am very disappointed. It was just wrong.”
A Portadown mother of a child with Downs Syndrome said she was very upset when she spotted the remarks made by Cllr Smith. “I couldn’t believe he would use such a word. It is archaic.
“I know he was upset but he is a public figure and to put a horrible word like that in on a public platform is wrong. He should have known better.”
She said she was equally hurt at his comments that she should ‘get a life’.
Robert Smith said he apologised for any offence caused but said it was an ‘off the cuff’ remark soon after he had discovered his motorbike was stolen.
“It was in no way a reference to anyone with disabilities,” said Cllr Smith.
He said he was concerned that some people were making him out to be insensitive to those with disabilities.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that is not true. I have a granddaughter who is extremely disabled.”