MP’s loyalist bonfire jibe ‘beyond appalling’

Pressure has continued to mount on the chair of Westminster’s NI Affairs Committee over a disparaging tweet about loyalist bonfire culture.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 1:53 pm
A large bonfire under construction in Craigyhill in Larne, Co Antrim. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire
A large bonfire under construction in Craigyhill in Larne, Co Antrim. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

On Monday, Simon Hoare provoked an angry backlash when he mocked the burning of wooden pallets in Northern Ireland on the Eleventh Night.

Having retweeted messages from Alliance leader Naomi Long and UUP MLA Doug Beattie – speaking out against the placing of election posters on a bonfire in Portadown – the MP for North Dorset tweeted his own message.

He said: “Who knew William of Orange arrived in Ireland with hundreds of wooden pallets hence the traditional pallet burning fiesta.”

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The tweet was described my many of those who responded as “sneering,” while others questioned if the MP was equally critical of his English constituents lighting bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night.

Following hundreds of responses to his original message – both critical and supportive – Mr Hoare posted a further message, defending his position. However, an hour later he issued a “sincere and heartfelt” apology.

He said: “Earlier I posted a tweet which was never intended to cause the offence it has to some in NI. I want to say fully & unequivocally that I am sorry. I intended only to be humorous/tongue in cheek & I got it wrong. I hope my apology will be accepted. It is sincere & heartfelt.”

Former South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly dismissed Mr Hoare’s claim of “humorous” intent.

Simon Hoare MP

She said: “Should the chair of the NI Affairs Committee really be ‘playing for laughs’ on twitter around NI issues or using them to try (and fail) to be humorous? Certainly not I would have thought. Reality is, this was not trying to be humorous – it was a snide comment for likes”.

Ex-DUP leader Arlene Foster responded to her former special advisor’s tweet with a comment, describing Mr Hoare’s message as “beyond appalling.”

Former senior police officer Jim Gamble questioned whether Mr Hoare should remain as the NIAC chairman.

He said: “In any reasonable government he would be removed from this critical post. He has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to behave appropriately. His tweet was more fit for the school yard than grown up debate.”

Baroness Hoey, the former Labour MP said: “Sincere and heartfelt?? Well we will see if he can refrain from his regular snide remarks and obvious anti Unionist and loyalist views and his pandering to nationalists and the Irish Government.”

One of those who applauded the online apology from Mr Hoare as “fair” was UUP leader Doug Beattie.

Facing his own backlash from those angered by Mr Hoare’s remarks,Mr Beattie later added: “He made a derogatory remark, I challenged him on it, he deleted and apologised and I accepted that apology for the tweet.” One supportive reply to Mr Hoare said, “you deserve credit for reflecting on your words rather than digging in,” while another Twitter user added: “People have seriously lost their sense of humour.

“I thought it was funny,people need to lighten up,”

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