A Unionist politician in Northern Ireland has apologized for a comments made earlier this week in which she appeared to compare migrants attempting to cross the English Channel to dogs.
Ulster Unionist MLA Jenny Palmer was replying to a comment made below a Facebook photo of a bus being inspected before entering the Channel Tunnel in France when she made the remarks. She has since blamed the misunderstanding on “bad grammar.”
Palmer had been on a trip to the Somme with a man who posted the image of the bus, accompanied by a post including a racist, offensive word. The picture drew attention to attempts to prevent illegal immigration to England via the France-England tunnel. Another Facebook user commented beneath the picture to say they were surprised the Northern Ireland politician had not brought a “refugee” home from the commemoration event in France.
To this, Palmer replied: "I have 2 dogs don't need anymore thank you William Houston lol".
She was immediately challenged about her words, after which she said that her intentions had been misunderstood.
"Perhaps bad grammar, just no room at 18a for anymore visitors sorry you misunderstood and will try better," she wrote.
The Lagan Valley MLA has since apologized for her “careless words” and has said the comments "do not reflect my own views". Although admitting that her words may have seemed racist, she insisted that she was attempting to joke with the Facebook user.
The posts have since been deleted.
In a statement to the BBC radio program, the Stephen Nolan Show, Palmer said: "I would like first of all to apologize for any hurt that my careless words may have caused. These comments and actions do not reflect my own views.
"My words, made in reply to a Facebook comment, were intended as a joking remark regarding the busy-ness of my own home.
"The intention was to imply that between myself, my husband, our dogs and my daughter, we would struggle to accommodate anyone else.
"This was meant as a simple joke."
"However, as a later comment pointed out, my reply could easily have been misinterpreted as a racist or xenophobic comment. Particularly if taken without context or knowledge of my home.
"As soon as I was made aware of the offensive nature of the comment, I rectified my actions. I would again stress that those words do not reflect my viewpoint whatsoever. My actions and comment were genuine mistakes.”
A spokesperson from her party, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), also acknowledged her inappropriate words.
"Jenny Palmer MLA has apologized for her comments and accepts that they were wholly inappropriate,” they said.
"We should respond to human tragedy with compassion. I would repeat what our party leader [Mike Nesbitt] said in September 2015 – that to ignore the refugee crisis would be to lose sight of our common humanity.
“The Ulster Unionist Party supports efforts to deliver a fair and workable solution to the ongoing refugee crisis being caused by terrorism and conflict in the Middle East.
Formerly a member of rival unionist political party the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Palmer first became an MLA for the UUP in May 2016 after falling out with her former party. In contrast to the DUP, the UUP campaigned to remain in the EU during the Brexit referendum.
In its 2016 manifesto, the party stated that immigration “remains a fluid situation, impacting more on the south of England than on Northern Ireland. We wish to offer a humane, generous reaction to the crisis of asylum seekers and refugees, without disadvantage to our own.”
The manifesto asked how the party could turn their backs on migrants with the history of emigration from Northern Ireland, also recognizing the contribution of immigrants in Northern Ireland, especially in the healthcare service and in intensive manual jobs.
Palmer's comments were made in contrast to the UUP manifesto policy of a zero tolerance approach to racist attacks.
H/T: Belfast Telegraph