A number of candidates for Belfast City Council have criticised the content of independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting’s election posters.
Posters from Ms Bunting have been erected in the Court Ward in west Belfast and include slogan’s like “veterans before immigrants” and “local homes for local people”.
Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie accused Ms Bunting of attempting to introduce “politics of hate” ahead of the local government elections on May 2.
He said that Ms Bunting was “plumbing the depths in her campaign”.
“This is a blatant and disgraceful attempt to inject the politics of hate into this election, something which has been typical of Jolene Bunting’s time on Belfast City Council,” Councillor Beattie said.
Ms Bunting was given an interim suspension from Belfast City Council last September for failing to comply with the Local Government code of conduct after 14 complaints against her were received.
She was suspended pending the outcome of a standards watchdog investigation.
Complaints against her included appearing at a rally with leaders of Britain First and a meme posted on social media which was described by other councillors as “racist and offensive”.
Last week a judge ruled that Councillor Bunting’s four month interim suspension from council should be upheld due to her attendance at events where anti-Islamic speeches were made.
Responding to Mr Beattie’s comments Ms Bunting said her policies were about “putting local people first” and that she was standing behind them.
“I believe that we should put natives first and that’s what they have an issue with, that I want to put people who were born in this country ahead of visitors to the country,” she said.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to say that it’s racism, I just feel that we should put veterans before people coming into our country.”
Alliance Party candidate Micky Murray said that Ms Bunting’s posters were “blatant, everyday racism”.
“Disgusting behaviour from an elected representative,” he said.
His party colleague Councillor Kate Nicholl said that Ms Bunting’s “hateful words have very real consequences to people who are marginalised as it is”.