An independent unionist councillor has drawn attention to the problem of unchecked hate speech by unionist politicians with an egregious and ridiculous attempt to insult Irish nationalists.
Jolene Bunting, who has previously expressed support for ultra-right group ‘Britain First’, posted an image described as “racist, sectarian and offensive” on Thursday afternoon.
It depicts two frogs, one wearing a Union flag and the other wearing an Irish tricolour. The frog with the tricolour is crying, holding a pint of Guinness and wearing a hat that reads: “Please be patient I have famine”.
Around one million Irish people died and a further one million emigrated during a period of unchecked starvation and disease between 1845 and 1850.
The cap depicted in the picture also imitates a cap originally sold to parents of special needs children which read “Please be patient I have autism”.
The cartoon frog in the picture, known as “Pepe”, is a character frequently used by right-wing social media trolls. Accompanying the picture is the line: “C’mon Paddy, EU can leave too”, a statement on Brexit.
Sinn Fein council group leader Deirdre Hargey said she had lodged a formal complaint with Belfast City Council over the tweet, as did Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, who said it was “not only crass but racist and sectarian”.
“There is no place in our politics for this. Depressingly, it seems there is no prejudice she [Jolene Bunting] is unwilling to support,” he added.
There have already been complaints about Ms Bunting in relation to an anti-Islam video and a racist leaflet distributed in south Belfast, but without effect.
In an internet video response, she denied making fun of the Irish famine or autistic children. She said: “The response to this post has been completely ridiculous. The leftists are well and truly triggered.”
The controversy comes on the heels of further bigoted internet posts by former Ulster Unionist Deputy Leader John Taylor, now a member of Britain’s ‘House of Lords’ under the title ‘Lord Kilclooney’.
His latest controversy saw him repeat a disparaging slur he used several weeks ago when he referred to the 26 County Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as ‘the Indian’, due to his father’s background. Adopting a more directly racist tone, he condemned the recent visit by Varadkar to the Six Counties (who he wrongly accused of not following protocol) as being that of a “Typical Indian”.
Last month, he was criticised for claiming that a pub bombed by loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict was a “drinking hole for IRA sympathisers” who have run a “political campaign to place the blame on the UVF”.
Fifteen Catholic civilians, including two children, died in the McGurk’s Bar massacre, and a further 17 were injured. At the time, Taylor was a junior Stormont minister and claimed it had been an IRA ‘own goal’ bomb that exploded prematurely inside the north Belfast bar. Recent research has confirmed that those statements were part of a deliberate disinformation effort.
Although Taylor’s internet commentary frequently makes headlines, Mr Varadkar said he had believed Taylor’s twitter account was not a genuine one.
Speaking at Leaders’ questions in the Dublin parliament, Mr Varadkar said: “In terms of Lord Kilclooney’s tweet, I did see it. I actually had thought that was a parody account, but seemingly it’s not. It actually is for real, but that’s all I’ll say about that.”
A spokesperson for the Westminster parliament said that its members were expected to follow a ‘code of conduct’, but would not say if complaints against Taylor would be investigated.