The Alliance Party has hit back at claims it is being used by Sinn Fein to further the republican agenda on Belfast City Council.
Political commentator Ruth Dudley Edwards accused the party of naivety in becoming “a Sinn Fein patsy”.
She appeared on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme yesterday to defend her remarks while Alliance’s Kate Nicholl was also on the show to respond.
In her Belfast Telegraph column, Ms Dudley Edwards said Alliance had voted 22 times with Sinn Fein against the DUP and only eight times the other way around at Belfast City Council.
She gave examples of Sinn Fein and Alliance “scuppering” a memorial to victims of the Belfast Blitz and the parties’ collaboration in putting forward an amendment to council rules which would “stifle free speech”.
She wrote: “Shinners may eulogise murderers, boycott Westminster and bring down Stormont, but hey, to Alliance, they’re preferable to dinosaurs who disapprove of gay marriage and think free speech matters, even if it hurts people’s feelings.
“Someone should explain to the party that it is being eaten by a crocodile.”
She repeated much of her sentiments on Talkback yesterday afternoon while Ms Nicholl argued that her party has no strategic allegiances on Belfast City Council.
The Alliance councillor said: “We vote based on what is sensible rather than orange and green issues. We’re a cross-community party so we will vote issue by issue on what is best for our city.
“I’m finding it kind of patronising the idea that Alliance are being taken in by Sinn Fein.
“We recognise that the Good Friday Agreement happened and we work together with other political parties that have been democratically elected on all sides. Does Ruth not want us to work with people who are democratically elected?”
Ms Dudley Edwards responded: “I want you to challenge the things they do which are appalling – including the eulogising of murderers.”
Last night an Alliance spokesperson said: “We call out unionist and nationalist politicians in equal measure – as has been seen in our condemnation from the outset of Barry McElduff’s actions, our condemnation around the naming of Raymond McCreesh Park and our criticism of unionism’s short-sighted approach to Brexit.”