A MEMBER of Parliament has labelled grey squirrels the "Hamas of the squirrel world".

The DUP’s Jim Shannon compared the animal to the Palestinian militant group whilst speaking during a debate on the control of the grey squirrel population.

Hamas was responsible for a deadly attack on Israel on October 7 which killed approximately 1200 people.

During the debate, Shannon said: “The Ards Red Squirrel Group is full of fantastic volunteers who work tirelessly to protect the future of the red squirrel in my constituency of Strangford, particularly at Mount Stewart.

“The organisation is led by the National Trust Mount Stewart ranger team, and they are in constant contact with local landowners to monitor red squirrels and eradicate any greys that venture in.

“Indeed, the issue is the very presence of grey squirrels – grey squirrels are the Hamas of the squirrel world.”

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He went on to suggest there should be “greater integration” between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local red squirrel groups in the devolved institutions to ensure they have the “means necessary to preserve and expand the red squirrel species throughout Northern Ireland”.

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The comment sparked backlash from other members, including Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran, who is of Palestinian descent and who lost a relative in Gaza in the ongoing war.

Moran said: “There is a time and a place to talk about the incredibly sensitive issue of Israel-Gaza and a debate about squirrels is not it. If Jim Shannon, who I speak with often, wants to engage in how to hold Hamas accountable for their atrocities, he should curb his flippant remarks.”

A Campaign Against Anti-Semitism spokesperson said: "While Jim Shannon likely does not mean any harm by his comments, they risk trivialising the atrocities that Hamas has committed over decades, culminating in the massacre of October 7. All parliamentarians should be measured in their choice of words."