Election Diary: Crudely sectarian SF leaflet shameful, say SDLP

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Sinn Fein has produced an election leaflet which even in one of the most bitterly divided constituencies in the UK has caused outrage because of its overt and crude sectarianism.

Gerry Kelly’s literature clearly makes the implicit statement that all those who were born Catholic are automatically nationalists.

The leaflet, which says that Sinn Fein “defend against ... sectarianism”, quoted figures which it said came from the last Census for the number of “nationalists” and “unionists” in North Belfast.

However, the census does not ask whether people are nationalist or unionist. Instead, Mr Kelly has taken the figure for those born Catholic, subtracted those born as Protestant, and said: “This is a majority of 1,305 nationalists.”

Mr Kelly made a similar – though not as overt – claim over a month ago when he said that “demographics” meant that the “nationalist potential vote has moved marginally past the unionist vote for the first time since partition”. At the time the News Letter asked Sinn Fein what figures that claim was based on but they have still not responded.

SDLP candidate Alban Maginness, whose party highlighted the leaflet, said: “Sinn Fein’s election literature shamefully confirms that they are a sectarian party trying to create another sectarian headcount in North Belfast. Each and every Sinn Fein candidate must now clearly state if they agree with the dangerous, sectarian tactics of their North Belfast campaign or if they will join with us in opposing the politics of the past.”

The leaflet calls for a vote for Sinn Fein to “advance equality and defend all citizens against austerity, sectarianism and the failed politics of the past”.

Allister hints at Upper Bann UUP preference

The TUV leader has come very close to expressing support for the Ulster Unionist hoping to unseat David Simpson in Upper Bann.

Jim Allister was careful not to actually state that he was supporting Jo-Anne Dobson, but gave massive hints that his supporters were likely to find the MLA more palatable than the incumbent DUP veteran.

The seat is expected to be one of the closest inter-unionist races in the Province and the DUP has been repeatedly claiming that there is an outside chance of Sinn Fein taking the seat, a claim which the UUP has dismissed as scaremongering.

Mr Allister, who claimed that he had received thousands of votes in the area at last year’s European election, told the Lurgan Mail that TUV would contest the seat in next year’s Assembly poll.

He said: “The question this year is to whom should TUV supporters lend their vote. It is not for me to be prescriptive about this matter, leaving individual TUV supporters to make up their own mind.

“I am aware, though, of a prevalent view that the least deserving of support are those who paraded themselves as great opponents of the Belfast Agreement, only to become its implementers and sustainers.

“David Simpson toppled David Trimble in 2005 on a solemn manifesto pledge that mandatory coalition was ‘out of the question’. Within two years he was voting for precisely that and has supported terrorists in government ever since.

“Some might, therefore, conclude that at least the UUP, though utterly wrong in peddling the Belfast Agreement, was more straightforward with the electorate.”

Robinson name not a vote-winner

Peter Robinson may have re-asserted his control of the DUP in recent months, but his name still doesn’t seem to be a vote-winner in his own constituency.

A profile of Gavin Robinson — who is no relation — in The Guardian noted a telling aside from the talented DUP rising star.

The article quoted the East Belfast candidate as saying: “I now take my dad and my birth certificate out campaigning with me”. The article added “he’s only half joking; his dad is sitting next door”.

The constituency profile noted that despite the significance of the East Belfast battle between Alliance’s Naomi Long and Mr Robinson, most people stopped in the street either remained silent or said “I’m not that bothered”.