'noose' | 

UUP candidate says Doug Beattie won't be put off following chilling death threat

"He had a death threat, windows smashed and there's horrific trolling going on online"

Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston is a candidate running in North Belfast for the UUP. The Sunday World caught up with Julie-Anne while canvassing in Waringstown with party leader Doug Beattie

Aaron Tinney

ULSTER Unionist leader Doug Beattie is being bombarded with a relentless stream of "horrific" trolling following his chilling noose death threat.

But the party's North Belfast candidate Julie-Ann Corr-Johnston has revealed he is refusing to be scared off canvassing ahead of next Thursday's election.

The 34-year-old ex-PUP member has also been left worried that UUP Health Minister Robin Swann doesn't have security when he talks to voters despite him being bombarded with hate mail over his handling of the Covid pandemic.

Openly gay Julie - who has battled a barrage of discrimination about her sexuality - said she is praying for a world where politicians and public servants don't live in fear of being targeted with hate and the threat of violence.

She said about a noose being hung around one of Doug's election posters: "I was very shaken by that. This is someone that I am idolising at this point in time. I'm 34 years of age, a mother who just wants a Northern Ireland that can a give a future to her children, and I'm looking at the one man that I trust with their future.

Julie-Anne Corr with partner Kerry Johnson

"He had a death threat, windows smashed and there's horrific trolling going on online.

"I know people always say, 'That comes with the territory.' But it does not and it should not.

"It's anti-democratic and it's the way people try to bully people out of politics.

"But Doug won't budge. We won't renege on that positivity. We are just continuing to put out a positive message for a progressive Northern Ireland.

"I think there's always the risk of something. You only have to look at the sinister elements behind the noose that was placed around Doug's poster.

"That is of a very sinister intent. But I wouldn't like to think anyone would actually target him.

"I think those days are gone. Doug has been out braving it.

"But I am sure as a human that has certainly rocked him - maybe more so for his family, his wife, and he has the grandchildren over. I'm sure there's some concerns."

She added about Mr Swann's lack of security in public: "I was really, really surprised the other day.

"I had Robin Swann out with me, helping to canvas. There was no security personnel around Robin and I was like, 'Wow'. After all the death threats and abuse he's had, there was nothing like that.

"I'd like a Northern Ireland and a world where politicians don't need security personnel, that were able to respect people in a job that is one of the highest institutions we have - governance.

"You'd like to think it was safe for people, but I think it's down to each individual."

Her comments come in the wake of calls for more security for politicians across the UK after the October murder of Sir David Amess at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Mr Swann this year told how he was left traumatised by explaining to his two young children why he and his wife decided to fortify their home with bars on windows and panic alarms and buttons amid constant death threats.

Julie-Ann has said she's faced "a lot of discrimination as a gay woman" in Northern Ireland.

But on the election trail this time around, she has escaped lightly.

Julie-Ann also gets voters "cracking up" at her for her support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

"I'll stand at the door for a couple of minutes and then I'll leave when I know I'm not getting their vote," she said.

But Julie is hoping voters turn away from the DUP.

"Every election I've heard the same thing - people saying, 'I'm not voting the DUP'," she said.

"But every election they've come back the largest party. I'm out there and I'm hearing it more frequently. I tell people, 'If you want change, you need to vote for it'.

"The first issue I am hearing on doorsteps is the cost of living. One pensioner told me it was £44 to fill half a tank of a small car.

"People's wages simply aren't stretching far enough. The second is mental health - north Belfast is the capital for suicide in Northern Ireland."

Julie - who is raising four-year-old twins Martha and Alexander with charity worker wife Kerry (33) - said she is also struggling with soaring living costs.

She said: "I'm self-employed and being in this election has cost me an absolute fortune.

"My home is gas-led and isn't well insulated so my bills are through the roof and I'm dreading my electricity bill because we pay quarterly. It is a struggle out there and I'm not immune to it.

"It's important for me we find solutions to this and bring as many people back from the brink of poverty as possible."

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