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'Hypocritical' DUP man Loves Dublin

(Maeve Connolly, Irish News)

A DUP councillor who enthused about visiting Dublin has been accused of hypocrisy after calling for President Mary McAleese to cancel a trip to his home town of Ballymena.

Mrs McAleese is to visit a school in the Co Antrim town later this month but the DUP's Robin Stirling is strongly opposed to it.

A weekend newspaper quoted the unionist talking about regular visits to Dublin where he enjoys pottering in bookshops.

"To me, it's a different country. And this difference is refreshing," he was reported as saying.

Mr Stirling is believed to have taken the opportunity to combine a city break with last month's 'Love Ulster' rally.

Ballymena Sinn Féin councillor Monica Digney last night (Monday) said he was being "hypocritical".

"This is the same party that sent a member to Dublin a couple of weeks ago to represent the council at an event. It is only right that Mary McAleese should visit and I am more than happy for her to do so," she said.

"The DUP should welcome her the way they would welcome any head of state."

Mr Stirling said the visit should be cancelled because many people were opposed to Mrs McAleese's presence in the town.

Speaking after a council meeting last night, he refused to rule out the possibility of a protest greeting the president.

Mr Stirling said he expected that a decision would be taken at a "higher level" within the DUP as to whether any street protest would greet President McAleese when she visits Ballymena Academy grammar school.

The president last year claimed in a television interview that Northern Ireland children had been taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis had been conditioned to despise Jews.

She later apologised for the comments.

March 15, 2006

This article appeared first in the March 14, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News