UUP leader defiant over ‘scum’ outburst

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TOM Elliott has continued to stand over comments he made on Saturday when he labelled Sinn Fein members as “scum” at an election count.

The Ulster Unionist leader said his remarks followed persistent barracking from the floor of the hall at the conclusion of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone poll, and that his reaction would have echoed the sentiments of many IRA victims in the area.

“The wounds in Fermanagh are still raw,” Mr Elliott said as he called on republicans to reflect on their own actions.

“The peace process is a two-way street and Sinn Fein needs to realise that fact.”

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Mr Elliott said his acceptance speech in Omagh was constantly disrupted by abuse from the “worst type” of Sinn Fein supporters.

“If we’re supposed to be moving on, then Sinn Fein and their supporters must accept that toning down their deliberately provocative behaviour is a part of that process too.

“That’s nothing new to me though – I’m subject to abuse, not just at counts but on a regular basis.”

The UUP leader rejected claims that his comments were a return to the troubled past, saying Sinn Fein supporters were guilty of double standards.

“I welcome progress in Northern Ireland, but is that what you call progress? Stuff like that is reminiscent of the Bobby Sands election,” he said.

Describing himself as “bemused” at the widespread condemnation of his remarks, Mr Elliott added: “I’m also a bit incensed that senior Sinn Fein made very inflammatory statements just two weeks ago in their speeches at the Easter commemorations. Like Martin McGuinness saying the IRA weren’t war mongers.

“Like Sean Lynch saying about Seamus McElwaine that he was a ‘brave comrade who instilled fear into the hearts of all the British security services’. That type of language doesn’t bode well with unionists.”

The UUP leader also played down the impact his comments will have on the party and said there were more important issues to be addressed, both at local and national level.

“I have talked to quite a lot of the assembly members since and none of them have raised any significant issues with me,” he said.

“A couple of them, to be fair, sought clarification but when I gave them the clarification that was okay.

“We need to move on and deal with party issues as well as government issues.

“Obviously one of the issues is around the executive and how that operates, and we will certainly be putting forward our very clear views on all of that.”

The UUP leader added: “As far as the provocation issue goes, I have no difficulty in saying to them [Sinn Fein] that it’s an issue they have to deal with as well if we’re going to move on.”