Row after Sinn Fein MLA brands Northern Ireland 'putrid little statelet'
A fresh row has erupted among Northern Ireland's politicians after a senior Sinn Fein representative described Northern Ireland as a "putrid little statelet".
Unionists have described Alex Maskey's remarks as "offensive", accusing the West Belfast MLA of trying to "justify terrorism".
Mr Maskey said on Twitter: "Unfortunately it took more than the CRA (civil rights association) to secure rights in the putrid little statelet NI."
The comments were posted in response to an unrelated tweet from SDLP leader Colm Eastwood who, when commenting on the 100th anniversary of women's voting rights, noted: "We can't forget that it took the Civil Rights Association here to ensure that all people got full access to voting rights."
The row comes amid a fresh round of talks aimed at restoring the powersharing devolved government at Stormont.
South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly was among those outraged by Mr Maskey's remarks.
She said: "To call Northern Ireland a 'putrid little statelet' shows utter contempt to many who, like me, are deeply proud of the province."
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie dismissed the comments as "absolute offensive rubbish", adding: "Alex Maskey's description of Northern Ireland as a 'putrid little statelet' exemplifies a continued attitude of disrespect within Sinn Fein.
"This is all the more offensive, as the reference is within a tweet appearing to justify terrorism."
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister echoed the outrage, saying: "The many victims of IRA terrorism will be in no doubt as to what Maskey was referring to."
In a later tweet Mr Maskey appeared to reference the new negotiations.
He said: "Looking back on how the northern 6 county state systemically discriminated against many of it's citizens I am delighted how far we have came. (sic) Still a way to go to deliver fully on rights for all and that is our current task."
The row is the latest controversy involving politicians' use of social media.
Last month Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff resigned as West Tyrone MP after posting a video of himself posing with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the IRA massacre.
The DUP's Christopher Stalford and Doug Beattie of the UUP were also criticised for retweeting a controversial cartoon sketch of the Kingsmill attack.
On Saturday, Sinn Fein's policing spokesman Gerry Kelly apologised after he was filmed removing a wheel clamp in Belfast city centre.