Sunday, May 19, 2024

Catholic Church child abuse joke made in DUP WhatsApp group

The Catholic Church and its child abuse scandal was the butt of a joke in WhatsApp messages between senior DUP figures, it has emerged.

The messages have been published online after they were handed over to the Covid-19 Inquiry sitting in Belfast by Assembly Speaker and former Stormont Executive minister Edwin Poots.

The messages, which were sent throughout 2020, were shared in a DUP WhatsApp group of Executive ministers and other senior party figures, including special advisors.

The 63 pages of message logs have now been published on the Covid Inquiry website, with some of the names redacted.

Among the messages, which also contain comments about Sinn Féin ministers, was an exchange in March 2020 involving then-education minister Peter Weir.

He referred to the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, who was writing to urge him to close schools as fears over the spread of Covid deepened.

“Wasn’t aware of his qualifications in virology,” Mr Weir wrote.

In a response, a member of the WhatApp group whose name was redacted, wrote: “Write back and tell him we don’t live in the South and that his institution hasn’t the best track record of looking out for the welfare of kids.”

In a later message that same evening, Mr Weir wrote he had seen the letter from Archbishop Martin.

“Unsurprisingly, no coherent or convincing arguments and reminds me a little of a letter that would bet written on behalf of a constituent when you feel you have to but know they have no case.”

It emerged last week in published WhatsApp messages that Mr Weir believed only “nut jobs and ardent nationalists on Twitter” thought schools should close in the early stages of the pandemic.

Speaking at the Inquiry last week, Mr Weir said he regrets the “level of division” in the debate over closing schools.