Tuesday 23 January 2018

Campaign marred by dirty tricks, slurs and a lack of good manners

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds

The recent poll is being slated as one of the nastiest in memory, with allegations of dirty tricks, slurs and a lack of courtesy in victory.

One of the most distasteful episodes was the distribution of a letter claiming DUP deputy leader and North Belfast candidate Nigel Dodds refused to meet the parents of a child with cerebral palsy.

The claims were particularly painful as Mr Dodds had a son, Andrew, with spina bifida, who he and his wife Diane doted on and cared for around the clock.

Andrew died before he was nine. Mr Dodds and the DUP blamed Sinn Féin for the smear, which it denied.

Sinn Féin was also accused of engaging in naked sectarianism in the fight for the seat when Mr Dodds's opponent Gerry Kelly released a leaflet displaying figures from the 2011 census showing slightly more Catholics than Protestants in the constituency and equating that with voting intentions.

The leaflet was blasted by all the other major parties and even some Sinn Féin activists.

Mr Dodds said: "Sinn Féin like to talk about equality in public, but privately they make it clear that equality is nothing more than a Trojan horse to break unionists."

"Publicly, Sinn Féin talk about challenging sectarianism, but then produce leaflets which rely on blatant sectarian headcounting."

Mr Dodds described the election campaign in the constituency as "one of the nastiest" in which he had been involved.

The re-elected MP slammed what he called Sinn Féin "dirty tricks" and said the DUP had "exposed" their sectarianism.

SDLP candidate Alban Maginness accused both the DUP and Sinn Féin of "embarking on a sectarian dog fight" in the constituency.

In Upper Bann where there was no agreed unionist candidate, DUP winner David Simpson made a hard-hitting acceptance speech in which he described some of the tactics during the campaign as "unacceptable".

It's thought he was referring to some comments on social media alleged to have come from self-styled UUP supporters.

Mr Simpson has three adopted children who were apparently targeted in comments alleged to have come from self-styled UUP supporters on social media.

UUP contender Jo-Ann Dobson insisted her campaign had been "totally positive" compared to DUP scare tactics of warning a unionist split would allow Sinn Féin to take the seat.

There was more rancour over the acceptance speech by the new DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, who said people had decided to back "someone they could trust" - a clear criticism of the defeated Alliance deputy leader, Naomi Long.

Irish Independent

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