New Tory Holyrood group leader Ruth Davidson, has become embroiled in a sectarianism row after it was revealed that one of her staff posted offensive sectarian tweets.
Colin James Taylor, a member of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s Holyrood staff posted sectarian song lyrics on Twitter glorifying the Northern Irish terrorist group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and also referred to Celtic Football Club as “tims”.
Belfast born Mr Taylor is employed at public expense by Ms Davidson in the Tory Press and Research Unit (PRU) at Holyrood.
He was president of the student Glasgow University Conservative Association (GUCA) from 2009 to 2010 and while studying there posted the offensive remarks under the Twitter name ‘ulsterexile’.
On Saturday, February 19, 2011, Mr Taylor posted lines from a verse of a provocative UVF song about a UVF member awaiting execution, Here Lies a Soldier.
He posted: “Don’t bury me, in Erin’s Fenian vallies. Oh take me home, to Ulster let me rest …”, Mr Taylor did not tweet the rest of the verse, which continues: “And on my gravestone carve a simple message, Here lies a soldier of the UVF.”
On the weekend of Saturday, February 19th when he tweeted the sectarian pro-UVF words, the UVF was in the news as the anticipated Northern Ireland police ombudsman report into one of the UVF terrorist group’s worst atrocities was about to be released – the bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in 1971, where 15 people were murdered and 16 injured.
The details of the report, published 48 hours following Mr Taylor’s tweet, revealed that the IRA had been wrongly blamed for the McGurk’s Bar attack which had in fact been carried out by the UVF.
Mr Taylor’s tweet also appeared on the eve of the anniversary of the 1979 conviction of the notorious ultra-Loyalist gang the Shankhill Butchers – many of whom were members of the UVF. The Shankill Butchers murdered at least 30 people and tortured many Catholics civilians.
Mr Taylor’s tweet remarks continued and on April 17th, the day of a Scottish Cup semi-final match between Aberdeen and Celtic, where he wrote: ‘Hope the sheep absolutely hump the tims today’ – tim is a term of anti-Catholic abuse.
Mr Taylor is not the first member of her staff to embroil her in a sectarian related controversy. At the very beginning of her recent campaign for the leadership of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson had to fire her Holyrood assistant Ross McFarlane – Mr McFarlane was filmed burning a European Union flag in Glasgow while sectarian remarks were made by a companion.
At the time of the incident, Mr McFarlane was the president of the GUCA, as well as being Ruth Davidson’s Holyrood election agent.
The cases of McFarlane and Taylor have highlighted Davidson’s ties to Glasgow University Conservative Association (GUCA) – according to their website Ms Davidson is the group’s honorary president. She attended GUCA’s annual dinner Friday 11th.
It has been noted that Ms Davidson when referring to her party repeatedly uses the name Conservative and Unionist – the emphasis on Unionist being evident.
A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: “The allegations against Mr Taylor have been fully investigated and he has been issued with a formal warning. Mr Taylor deeply regrets the comments and he apologises for any offense he has caused.”
Mr Taylor’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have since disappeared and he has retained his post.
The anti-sectarian group Nil By Mouth said: “People have to realise that online bigotry is unacceptable.”
Last week, leading QC Paul McBride quit the Tories over the party’s hostility to an SNP Bill aimed at tackling sectarianism in football.