DUP leader Arlene Foster has called on Sinn Fein to specifically condemn the IRA’s attempted murder of her father and party deputy leader Nigel Dodds during the Troubles.
Ms Foster issued the challenge amid a row about controversial loyalist banners that have appeared in the North Belfast constituency making a range of inflammatory allegations about Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane and his family.
Police are investigating the posters and one was removed by council workers, with a police escort, on Monday.
After Mr Dodds condemned the posters at a DUP election event in Belfast yesterday, Ms Foster accused Sinn Fein of hypocrisy.
“It is a bit rich to listen to people talking about violence and hate crimes and what have you,” she said.
“We need complete clarity from Sinn Fein around some of the most violent acts that took place here in Northern Ireland. What do they have to say about the attempted murder of my father (the late John Kelly) for example, what do they have to say about the attempted murder of Nigel Dodds?
“We need to hear from them what they have to say about that.”
Mr Dodds distanced the DUP from the banners that have appeared in the constituency he is trying to hold in the face of Mr Finucane’s attempt to unseat him.
“The banners and posters have nothing to do with our campaign, we knew nothing about them and I want to make it very, very clear that anything that is personally abusive or offensive, inaccurate and smearing of any candidate in any political party is to be condemned and is nothing to do with a proper democratic debate or a democratic election, so I want to make that very, very clear indeed,” he said.
“Our party has been crystal clear on these issues, on violence and on the use of violence. And the challenge to all parties is the same – we see some vile internet trolling of victims, of unionists politicians as well, and that’s to be condemned also.
“But there’s also a challenge to Sinn Fein in this election. They can’t be selective here, we condemn every act of violence from every paramilitary organisation – do they do that, will they do that? Will they condemn the IRA who went into a hospital 20 years ago and shot a police officer guarding me? Do they condemn it? No, they don’t.
“Will they stop eulogising the violent perpetrators of the IRA – it’s time they were challenged on some of this stuff and not be selective about it.
“Our position is clear – we will have no part in anything that demonises or has any personal offence or personal abuse against any candidate, it’s not part of our campaign and we will not be part of it.”
At the launch of the DUP’s policy plan titled’Let’s Get NI Moving Again’, Mrs Foster also ruled out supporting a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government in a hung parliament.
“We are very clear that we will not be supporting a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party in a government because we believe Jeremy Corbyn would not only be hugely detrimental to the United Kingdom in terms of the break-up of the United Kingdom, and we have heard the whole discussion around the Scottish independence referendum, and we would be very fearful for the economy of the United Kingdom and we would be very fearful for the defence of our United Kingdom on a global scale,” she said.
“So there are many, many reasons why we couldn’t in all consciousness support a Jeremy Corbyn-led administration.”