Carla Lockhart said it is “outrageous” for Sinn Fein to “shout loudest about standing up for women” in light of the party’s association with the IRA’s violent campaign that claimed the lives of many women during the Troubles.
Ms Lockhart, who condemned Mr Beattie’s tweets as “foolish” and “wrong”, also spoke about the wider issue of misogyny in online discourse during an interview with the News Letter.
The Upper Bann MP, who represents the same constituency as the UUP leader, has been subjected to and has campaigned against online abuse.
Asked for her thoughts on Mr Beattie’s tweets, she said: “It was foolish, it was wrong, the historic tweets were wrong, and that’s an issue for Doug to address. I welcome his apology but ultimately that’s an issue he has to address.”
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On the comments from Sinn Fein figures condemning Mr Beattie’s tweets, she said: “The political opportunism from some, whose party has a chequered past, has been quite hypocritical. For Sinn Fein to shout loudest about standing up for women when they support people like, for instance, Thomas McElwee – a hunger striker and murderer who firebombed a shop leading to the death of a young woman named Yvonne Dunlop – it’s outrageous.”
She added: “You only have to think of Jean McConville, Mary Travers, Colleen McMurray. It smacks of opportunism and deflection.”
On the wider issue of misogyny and abuse online, she said: “If this has highlighted anything it’s the need for us all to be aware of what we say, how we say it, and the impact it can have on others.
“Yes, I have had to deal with misogynistic slurs but I’m a politician and I have thick skin, so everything I’m doing in trying to make the internet and social media platforms a safer place for women, for journalists, for politicians, is done for future generations.
“Ultimately, at this moment in time you can say almost anything about anyone without any repercussions.
“From my perspective, one of my aims in this parliamentary term is to try and make sure the government gets tough on social media.”
Asked whether the UUP were right to stick with Mr Beattie as party leader, and how she might react if historic tweets were unearthed about senior members of her own party, she said: “Every party has its own disciplinary and investigatory processes and, if something of that nature was unearthed within our own party, it would be for investigations to take place and disciplinary action to take place. It is for the UUP to address.”