Ulster Unionist election candidate Jenny Palmer has said she won’t be forced out of frontline politics by threats and intimidation.
Mrs Palmer, who lost her Assembly seat in Lagan Valley last week, has come under attack on social media from an individual accusing her of splitting unionism in the constituency after vote transfers saw the SDLP’s Pat Catney elected at the expense of the DUP’s Brenda Hale.
The UUP woman was eliminated at the sixth stage of Friday’s count, meaning her transfers then went to the remaining candidates, with Mr Catney edging the close contest for the final seat.
Mrs Palmer, who along with her husband John moved to the UUP after quitting the DUP in 2015, said the online abuse had left her feeling “vulnerable”.
However, despite what she described as the “act of intimidation”, she said she has “no intention of deserting the people of Lagan Valley”.
“In the days after the election result, my family and I have been subjected to abuse on social media, but I certainly won’t be bowing down to cowards who don’t have the courage to express their views to my face, but prefer to hide behind the anonymity of social media,” she said.
Confirming that she has reported the online abuse to the PSNI, Mrs Palmer added: “It has boosted my resolve to remain in politics and campaign for tougher laws to bring these ‘internet trolls’ before the courts. I firmly believe the entire community would benefit from tougher protection against these cyber bullies.
“I will continue in frontline politics, assisting my husband, Councillor John Palmer, and my Ulster Unionist colleagues as we continue to work as a team to make life better for all the constituents of Lagan Valley. I would also like to thank all those who voted for me and have continued to send me messages of support, and congratulate Robbie Butler on his election.”
Voicing his support for his party colleague, South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan said: “I am disgusted by the cowards who have attempted to intimidate Jenny Palmer and her family in Lagan Valley.
“The comments made against Jenny and her husband on social media are beneath contempt and I unreservedly condemn them. I can assure John and Jenny of our full support.”
Mr Kinahan said that members of other parties must be “clear and unequivocal in their condemnation” of the threats against Mrs Palmer.
One of those who has spoken out in support of the former UUP Assembly Member is Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn, who said no-one should have to put up with online trolling and abuse.
“Jenny stood for re-election on a peaceful platform, while those behind these messages only aim to distract from our democratic process.
“Elected representatives must take a strong stance against all forms of intimidation. Jenny has been an excellent public representative for many years and does not deserve this kind of treatment,” he said.