Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has suggested that Arlene Foster was “mean-spirited” in her criticism of the media for what she believes has been ‘intense coverage’ of Sinn Fein’s meetings with King Charles III.
any news outlets focussed on the new monarch’s encounter with First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill and her party colleague, Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey, during their meeting in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
Writing in The Express, Dame Arlene suggested one could “be forgiven for thinking the visit was about them [Sinn Fein] and not marking the death of our sovereign and the first visit of her successor”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Nolan Show on Thursday, Mr Beattie said: “If anybody thought that there wouldn’t be intense media scrutiny of Sinn Fein shaking the hand of our new King, or a Sinn Fein speaker, giving the words of condolences – if people didn’t realise that that would be the case, then I’m not too sure what they thought.
“I suppose we all look at things in a different way and in a different perspective, and Arlene Foster has given that perspective,” added the Upper Bann MLA.
“I’m quite clear in my perspective and what I’ve seen is compassion right across all the political parties here in Northern Ireland, and they’ve been incredibly respectful. I think it would be mean-spirited to criticise anybody for being respectful.”
“We’re here because of the position that we’re in, we have no government. We should have held the meeting of the King in parliament and it should have been the First and Deputy First Ministers who gave the condolences to the King, but we’re not in that situation, so we had to come up with something slightly different.
“I’ve seen nobody who hasn’t been respectful in those political circles and that’s what I’m going to focus on,” he continued.
Dame Arlene wrote: “Inside the [Hillsborough] Castle the politicians had assembled and much has been said (far too much in my view) about the meeting between Sinn Fein members and the new King.
“For anyone who covers and knows Northern Ireland, this is not really big news, as Sinn Fein members have met both the late Queen and the new King on many occasions.
“The coverage got so intense about Sinn Fein on some mainstream broadcasts that you would be forgiven for thinking the visit was about them and not marking the death of our sovereign and the first visit of her successor!”
Separately, TUV leader Jim Allister criticised the BBC for its coverage of the visit of King Charles III, claiming the broadcaster “gave elevation and promotion to Sinn Fein”.
BBC NI declined to respond to Mr Allister’s comments.