A Sinn Fein councillor has been asked to apologise over a what has been described as a “damaging” tweet.
Councillor Nelson’s tweet, which has since been deleted, read: “Brokenshire, Villiers, Bradley, Smith – all symbols of British occupation. None will ever serve the interests of the people of this island. Their focus is and will remain maintaining what little is left of their crumbling empire. Only way to send them home #IrishUnity #Think32.”
Ms Lockhart replied: “Once again we see from Sinn Fein that the warm words of mutual respect and accommodation of British identity in their fantasy ‘New Ireland’ is nothing but spin.
“When the mask slips the psychology of Republicanism is still the same – Brits Out, you are not welcome here, this is not your home.
“Contrast this with the values of our United Kingdom – welcoming, accommodating and where indeed many from the Irish Republic have moved and made home.
“A more stark contrast with the real ‘New Ireland’ of Ms Nelson and her Sinn Fein isolationists – the “ourselves alone” ideologues – could not be found.
“Ms Nelson must now issue an apology, recognise her offence and make clear that those who cherish their British identity in this part of the United Kingdom are at ‘home’.
“Failure to do so will be an insult to the office she holds and it may fall to the Local Government Ombudsman to determine the appropriate consequence for such offensive conduct.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie described the tweet as “deeply disappointing”.
“Seriously @CatSeeley I didn’t think you’d go for this rhetorical and damaging language. I’m British and I am home,” he said.
Responding, councillor Seeley, tweeted: “We both know I meant British Secretary of States in the event of Irish independence and not Unionists or British Citizens.”
In another tweet, she added: “Faux outrage. Zero to do with Unionists and everything to do with British occupation of the island I call home.”
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist councillor Julie Flaherty said: “On Wednesday night a tweet from Councillor Catherine Nelson referred to the Secretary of State and included the line ‘send them home.’
“When some of Donald Trump’s supporters at a rally last week started chanting “send her back” in relation to a Congresswoman born outside the USA, there was a political outcry on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Catherine Nelson’s tweet was a throwback to the old republican mantra of ‘Brits Out’ and a long way away from their modern mantra of ‘equality, rights and respect’, all of which are in short supply from Sinn Fein.
“The Belfast Agreement recognised the legitimacy of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom over Northern Ireland.
“The Secretary of State is the representative of Her Majesty’s Government in Northern Ireland. To tell her to go home is grossly offensive to both the Government and the unionist community and shows very clearly how little Councillor Nelson understands the very same Belfast Agreement that Sinn Fein is so fond of lecturing us about.
“If a unionist politician had tweeted telling a visiting Taoiseach or Tánaiste to ‘go home’ one can only imagine the response.
“Councillor Nelson needs to apologise for her remarks and remember that words have consequences. Hundreds of thousands of British citizens live in Northern Ireland. We are home and we aren’t going anywhere.”