SDLP Councillor blames ‘disgusting’ message on son.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

SDLP Councillor blames ‘disgusting’ message on son. thumbnail‘Grossly offensive’, Denise Mullen.

A DUNGANNON SDLP Councillor has blamed her young son for sending a "grossly offensive" message about the DUP leader on a WhatsApp group whose members include unionist politicians and business leaders in the town.

The message was sent fom Denise Mullen's phone on the Dungannon Regeneration Partnership WhatsApp group.

It bore a picture of DUP leader and Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster with the words: "Never mind the beast from the east, here's a c*** from the north".

Dungannon Regeneration Partnership has confirmed to the Courier that the matter will be discussed at its next board meeting and has disassociated itself from the message sent by Ms Mullen.

Members of the group include unionist Councillors, one of whom is a member of the DUP.

Mid-Ulster Council Chair Kim Ashton is a Dungannon town Councillor and called the language withing the message "disgusting".

Speaking in her role as a Councillor, she said: "This post is disrespectful and grossly offensive. This post falls far short of the conduct befitting an elected representative.

The nasty language used against Arlene Foster is disgusting. Cllr Mullen's reasoning behind the sharing of this offensive image from her WhatsApp account should be properly explained.

"This group exists to help develop Dungannon but this grossly offensive contribution only serves to damage the Council and relations on the group."

Cllr Ashton's party colleague, Mid-Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan said the incident "raises serious questions about Cllr Mullen's position".

He said: "Cllr Mullen demands respect as an elected representative but this post fails to give any respect to the leader of unionism and MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone.

I remember Cllr Mullan saying in the Irish News that 'we are trying to get away from hatred and incitement to hatred'.

"When you demand respect, actions speak louder than words. This social media post certainly paints a thousand words. This graphic is not designed to critique policies but rather to stir up hatred of Arlene Foster.

"Is this latest incident another case of the SDLP mask slipping?

Whether naming playparks after IRA men, carrying the coffins of dissident republicans or removing the Union Flag, the SDLP has proved time and again that there is little difference between it and Sinn Fein.

"I will be writing to the SDLP leader about this incident. This disgusting post raises serious questions about Cllr Mullen's position.

"A complaint has already been made to the Chair of the Dungannon Regeneration Partnership and we will be making a complaint to the Local Government Ethical Standards Directorate, asking them to investigate this outburst against the Principles of Conduct for elected representatives.

"Anti-unionist bigotry cannot be allowed to go unchecked." Cllr Mullen claimed in a later message to the WhatsApp group that her son had sent the message while she was in the shower.

"I am truly sorry that a post from someone else forwarded from my mobile phone was placed into our WhatsApp group last night," she said.

"My young son was playing with my phone while I was in the shower and forwarded on this image. As soon as I became aware of it I alerted council officers and ensured that the image was removed.

As you know on council, I work with all parties and have the utmost respect for all people in our community.

"This was an innocent mistake and I apologise for any hurt and offence that it has caused. I trust you will accept my apology and convey my sincere comments to your collea gues." An SDLP spokesperson repeated Cllr Mullen's claim.

In a statement, they said: "Councillor Denise Mullen has informed us that her young son while playing with her personal mobile phone accidentally forwarded on an image of an online post that included offensive language relating to the DUP leader on WhatsApp.

"Cllr Mullen explained that as soon as she became aware she had the image removed.

The SDLP understands that Cllr Mullen contacted council officers immediately and has issued a full apology to the DUP for any unintended offence caused." Ulster Unionist Councillor for Dungannon, Walter Cuddy, who is a member of the WhatsApp group to which the message was sent, said it was "crazy" for a message like that to have been sent.

Speaking to the Courier, Cllr Cuddy said: "At the end of the day, no matter what party you are from, it's just crazy to have something coming through like that.

"I don't think it's an orchestrated plan to undermine Arlene Foster, but it's not nice and I know she's put in an apology but it shouldn't be happening in the first place."

And Dungannon Regeneration Partnership Chairman Brian MacAuley has stressed the previous good work of the organisation and said the incident will be up for discussion at its next board meeting.

He said: "Dung annon Regeneration Partnership (DRP) Ltd. was set up by Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council in 2000 to promote and encourage the revitalisation, regeneration and development of Dungannon town.

"DRP has been highlighted as an example of best practice in 'partnership working' by Department for Communities and has won two awards from Association of Town and City Management for best practice projects.

"The DRP membership is drawn from the public, private and community sectors including Mid-Ulster Council, Department for Communities (DfC), Dungannon Enterprise Centre, Dungannon Traders' Association and representatives from the education, banking and voluntary sectors.

"DRP acts a as single voice of town centre regeneration.

"The message was shared on a closed WhatsApp group by Councillor Mullen. It was not in line with the DRP mission. All parties that received the message have received an explanation from Councillor Mullen as to how it was shared and also a full apology.

"The matter will be considered at the next DRP Board meeting." Denise Mullen was first elected to Mid-Ulster Council in 2014 and is on the SDLP's ruling part executive.

She attracted controversy in 2015 when the Courier reported on her opening a coffee shop on Irish Street in Dungannon without having received planning permission from Mid-Ulster Council for her change of use application while sitting on the Council's Planning Committee.

The Courier contacted Cllr Mullen for a comment, but she failed to respond.


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