Sexism, racism and periscopes: Upper Bann on twitter

27 May 2015 Nick Garbutt    Last updated: 6 Jul 2015

Upper Bann is just getting back to normal again after an election campaign that ended in acrimony with allegations of racist abuse.

Scope dropped in on the constituency to see how its elected representatives are behaving on Twitter.

When sitting MP David Simpson of the DUP saw off a strong challenge from Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson he abandoned the conventional victors’ speech and instead launched a furious assault on his opponent’s supporters, lashing the “despicable attacks on my family over the past seven weeks. Disgraceful is the only word I can use.”

Later he explained to the Belfast Telegraph: “It's an awful situation where someone adopts an international family and where that family is lambasted, maybe because of their colour or for whatever."

He complained to Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt about abuse on social media, and Nesbitt asked him to provide the necessary evidence. There has been no further public statement from either side.

Whatever emerges from that there is no evidence of any personal vitriol on either politician’s twitter feeds. Both were busy on social media during the election, although Dobson is far more prolific: to date she has tweeted more than 4,000 times whilst Simpson is just over the 500 mark. This is reflected in their followers: Dobson scores 4515 to Simpson’s 1007.

Dobson figured in two separate social media storms during the campaign, both concerning her appearance: one when the Alliance Party posted the following on Facebook: “Voters of Upper Bann, ignore glamour-seeking non-camera shy Jo Ann [sic] appears more interested in prestige than service to community". It was crude, offensive and ungrammatical and Alliance apologised.

The other was when the commentator Malachi O’Doherty described her as “girly” and commented on her use of lip gloss in an analysis of candidates’ posters for the Belfast Telegraph. The Belfast Telegraph piece and subsequent reaction received massive traction on Twitter.

Two MLAs who did not contribute to the debate on social media were the DUP’s Sydney Anderson and Sam Gardiner, although the latter does have a parody account called @notsamgardiner which has the descriptor:” Most popular Politician to ever have existed in Lurgan. They just love me down here.”

Compared to these two their colleague Stephen Moutray is on the cutting edge with his 909 followers earned from 303 tweets, but he did make a bit of a blunder when the Asher’s gay cake verdict came through. He mistakenly tweeted that the shop had won and then called for Equality Commissioner Michael Wardlow to consider his position

Dolores Kelly MLA, the SDLP’s deputy leader is very active on Twitter and was so throughout the campaign, she has 4125 followers, a very respectable figure for an electoral candidate who received 4238 votes.

The prize for innovation in the constituency goes to Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd, who despite being Education Minister still finds plenty of time for social media activity. He was very active in supporting his colleague Catherine Seeley, even posting this periscope video on Twitter showing the two gearing up for one last push a few hours before polling opened. ’Dowd has 8532 followers and has tweeted almost 5,000 times.


Join the Conversation...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Join us on Twitter and join the conversation today.

Join Our Newsletter

Get the latest edition of ScopeNI delivered to your inbox.