Pressure has continued to mount on Sinn Fein after its election literature in North Belfast was labelled “blatantly sectarian”.
The republican party produced a pamphlet in support of Westminster candidate Gerry Kelly showing the religious breakdown for constituents in the area.
Nigel Dodds of the DUP said the literature – quoting figures from the 2011 census showing a slight majority of Catholics over Protestants – indicated “lazy sectarianism which concludes that someone’s voting preference can be assumed from their religious background”.
The DUP deputy leader, who is one of six candidates contesting the seat, said: “Sinn Fein 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.
“When confronted about their use of census figures instead of any electoral evidence, Caral Ni Chuilin made the ludicrous claim that the Electoral Commission prevented them from using the results of previous elections.”
Mr Dodds added: “Having been forced to apologise for that deliberate misinformation, Sinn Fein should now publicly step back from their sectarian electioneering in North Belfast.”
The latest criticism comes after a rising star within Sinn Fein, who is a brother of MLA Megan Fearon, lambasted his party over the pamphlet – calling it “absolutely disgraceful” and going on to say, “it is our duty to denounce this tripe”.
Writing on his Facebook page Sean Fearon, who last year was chairman of Sinn Fein at Queen’s University, 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.”
Despite the depth of feeling displayed in his online statement, by yesterday Mr Fearon had removed the post from his timeline.
The controversial pamphlet showed a bar chart comparison of the Protestant population (45.67%) and Catholics (46.94%), with the slogan ‘Make the Change Make History’.
Gerry Kelly has defended the leaflet saying it reflected official census figures and offered “compelling official evidence of significant demographic change”.
Mr Dodds went on to say: “Some Sinn Fein activists have publicly distanced themselves from this kind of campaigning. It is time that we heard something more than confused excuses from Caral Ni Chuilan. Does she believe that either your party political allegiance or your constitutional preference can be assessed purely by the community background designation on the census?”