Election Diary: SF rising star savages Kelly’s sectarian leaflet

Sean Fearon condemned the leaflet as an 'absolute disgrace'
Sean Fearon condemned the leaflet as an 'absolute disgrace'

A rising star within Sinn Fein has publicly savaged party veteran Gerry Kelly’s grossly sectarian election literature.

Sean Fearon, who last year was chairman of Sinn Fein at Queen’s University and the brother of MLA Megan Fearon, reacted with fury to the leaflet which took a Census figure for all those born as Catholics in northern Belfast and described them as “a nationalist majority”.

Public dissent within Sinn Fein is even rarer than it is within the DUP – and particularly when the criticism is aimed towards a senior republican and Provisional IRA figure such as Gerry Kelly.

But Mr Fearon spoke out bluntly to condemn the leaflet (a leaflet which ironically said that Mr Kelly opposed sectarianism).

He said that “it is our duty to publicly denounce this tripe and expose it for what it is”. Writing on his public Facebook page, Mr Fearon said: “In short, this is an absolute disgrace. The very antithesis of what republicanism represents at its very core: citizenship blind to religion, secularism, citizen duties and equality – not how many bloody Catholics and Protestants live in an area and assuming they’ll vote on ethno-nationalist lines as a result.

“Rest assured this does not represent the thousands of socialist republican Sinn Féin activists who are equally appalled as I am, nor is it indicative of the wider republican project.”

Another Sinn Fein member, Joseph Donaghy, was similarly critical: “Turning the race for the seat in North Belfast into a sectarian headcount is absolutely disgraceful from the party I have dedicated so much of my time to and had so much belief in. Republicanism has been let down greatly by the Gerry Kelly leaflet. How are we a progressive party when we turn an electoral race into one about religion?”

Dodds defends DUP over LGBT

Nigel Dodds has crossed swords with Guardian columnist Owen Jones on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics show on Sunday.

The left-wing commentator had challenged the DUP group leader at Westminster over the party’s track record on LGBT issues, saying it was “riddled with homophobic bigotry”.

The North Belfast MP hit back, pointing out that Jim Wells had resigned as health minister over his widely criticised remark about gay couples as they were “not the views of the party”.

Minister sorry for ‘error’ over leaflet

A Sinn Fein minister has tied herself in knots attempting to explain Gerry Kelly’s decision to release a leaflet which counted up all the Catholics in north Belfast and described them as nationalists.

Caral Ni Chuilin, who like Mr Kelly is an MLA for the area, claimed that he used the Census figures for Catholics because the Electoral Commission “vetoed” the use of recent election results – despite the fact that newspaper adverts for Mr Kelly did contain such figures.

She then tweeted to apologise for the “error”, but apologised to a separate body, the Electoral Office, and then defended Mr Kelly’s use of the number of Catholics in northern Belfast, saying: “Graphics used in leaflet was a faithful representation of official census figures, real evidence of significant change in demographics.”

Ukip: leave voters alone

Ukip has appealed for other parties to follow its lead in pledging not to erect posters or canvass voters outside polling stations.

The party’s Northern Ireland leader, David McNarry, said that the “spectacle” was “both unruly and unedifying”.

Mr McNarry added: “People going to the polling station have made their mind up as to which candidate they will vote for. Putting them through a form of running the gauntlet is just not on.”