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DUP councilor suspended over comments about Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, claims party has sacked her

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A DUP councillor, suspended after writing offensive comments about Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill on social media, has claimed she has been “sacked” by the party.

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Ohan Carson, a councilor on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, was suspended in October after he posted a comment under a picture of Ms O’Neill, the then deputy first minister, saying she should be fired in April 2021 In “will be put back in his kennel”.

The post was related to the then-DUP leadership contest between Edwin Poots and Sir Geoffrey Donaldson.

At the time, the DUP distanced itself from the comments, telling the BBC’s Nolan Show that Mr Carson was expressing a personal opinion, not that of the party.

He later apologized for the comments, however, a complaint was received by the Local Government Ethical Standards Directorate.

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The inquiry later found that Mr Carson’s apology was “half-hearted” and “not personal” and that his comments towards Ms O’Neill were “inappropriate and inaccurate”.

The commissioner also concluded that Mr Carson had “not shown a meaningful obstruction in his functions”.

Speaking to The Ballymena Guardian, Mr Carson said he was “left with no option but to retire” after multiple sources told the newspaper he had been ruled out of running in May’s council elections.

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He also claimed that Ian Paisley “encouraged” him to retire from the party.

“It was very clear that he had prepared my replacement,” he said.

He said DUP leader Sir Geoffrey had visited his home and said he had “taken the advice of the party leader and withdrawn his name”.

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“It has had a profound effect on me, I have been a member of the DUP for 42 years and a councilor for 18 years.

“I vow that I am not going to get into a war of words over this. I have been fired without explanation. I have just finished a three-month suspension.”

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He said that during his suspension, which was without pay, he “learned a very hard lesson about who (his) true friends really are”.

In addition to his remarks about Ms O’Neill, Mr Carson had previously found himself in controversy when in April 2020 he suggested that the coronavirus outbreak was God’s punishment for the introduction of same-sex marriage. The councilor apologized at the time and said that his comments were “misinterpreted” and that he “would never set out to intentionally hurt or offend anyone”.

In response to Mr Carson’s claims the DUP said: “We thank John for his many years of public service in elected politics and as an active party member.

“We do not comment on selection processes.”

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