Senior unionist politicians have been accused of engaging in racist commentary amid a controversy over the distribution of fascistic leaflets against immigrants.
The DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr was condemned over sharing an anti-Islam message by ultra-right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins.
The tweet by Ms Hopkins read: “March 2018. London has a higher murder rate than New York... and Ramadan’s not yet begun.”
Ms Hopkins has previously compared migrants to “cockroaches” and tweeted about the need for a “final solution” - a phrase the Nazis used to refer to the Holocaust.
Paisley, who shared the message to his followers, later apologised, claiming he only “glanced” at the tweet.
He added: “Do I live in a bubble that I only follow people that are of a certain quarter and are agreeable with? No. This came up in my news feed and I retweeted it.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson called on the DUP to distance itself from Hopkins’ views. “This nasty and arrogant disregard the DUP have for whole communities has to end and leadership is required from the top to send a message that comments like these are unacceptable,” they said.
Another DUP politician, East Derry representative Maurice Bradley, shared a post that described the Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as the “enemy within”. He apologised, but added: “I disagree with Sadiq Khan’s approach to Hezbollah - brutal terrorist apologists. The mayor has a democratic mandate and his religion is irrelevant.”
SDLP representative Claire Hanna said that Bradley’s retweet presented a “massive problem” for the DUP. “This shows a total failure to accept that other people are different to you,” she said.
Coincidentally, anti-Islam leaflets were anonymously hand-delivered to homes in Belfast. The leaflets, which were distributed on Monday, are from a group calling itself ‘Generation Sparta’ and urge readers to resist what it claims is ‘Islamisation’.
It calls for Catholics and Protestants to unite against “a common threat from fanatical Islamists” and claims “Protestants and Catholics bled for this land, not Islamists”.
Targeting an area containing a significant number of immigrant families, it also singles out Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party for supporting immigration. The leaflet was described as “insane and terrifying”.
“It targets Sinn Fein for our commitment towards a diverse, inclusive and pluralist society,” said Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir.
“Those racist elements behind this anti-Muslim and fascist propaganda intend only to stoke fear, hatred and division amongst the people of our shared city.
“Sinn Fein unequivocally condemns hatred of this kind. I have reached out to Muslim community leaders in South Belfast in an attempt to allay any concerns raised by this incident. I am calling on all communities, and all political leaders in the targeted areas, to publicly condemn this hatred.”