A war of words has broken out between two unionist candidates after a DUP man was accused of trying to “frighten voters with crude propaganda”.
It comes after Ulster Unionist candidate Jeffrey Dudgeon slammed an electoral leaflet issued by a DUP candidate in the Balmoral area of Belfast, which he said make the “outrageous claim” that the DUP is the “only party that will defend the Union in city hall”.
Mr Dudgeon branded the leaflet – issued by DUP hopeful David Graham - as a “disgraceful slur against all other unionist parties”.
He added: “It makes clear that the DUP will stoop to any tactic to win votes.”
However, Mr Graham has defended the leaflet and said he has “not attacked” any other unionist during the campaign.
Voters are set to go to the polls in the local government elections on Thursday.
There are currently two unionist council seats in the Balmoral district electoral area (DEA) – one is currently held by the DUP and the other by Mr Dudgeon for the UUP.
“It is that seat which Mr Graham is patently trying to seize by frightening voters with silly assertions,” Mr Dudgeon claimed.
“Those two seats are not in jeopardy. Saying ‘only the DUP can win Balmoral for unionism’ is a complete nonsense.”
Mr Dudgeon also accused his unionist rival of using “deceptive” figures in his election leaflet.
“He says 26 nationalists and 24 unionists were elected to city hall in 2014 but in this scare tactic fails to mention the ten other councillors. They are eight Alliance, one Green and one independent.
“Sadly, we are not two seats away from regaining a unionist majority, as he suggests.
“There is only one party to blame for a unionist minority in Belfast City Hall and that is the DUP. It was the DUP-backed council boundary changes which ensured a nationalist/Alliance majority in city hall, by inexplicably incorporating the Dundonald area into the Lisburn and Castlereagh Council area instead of Belfast.
“If people fall for the DUP`s deceptions they will lead to the further weakening of unionism in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.”
In response to Mr Dudgeon’s comments, Mr Graham said the remarks were “disappointing but not surprising”.
He told the News Letter: “I have not attacked any other unionist during the campaign, instead choosing to focus on the positive reasons to vote for the DUP. I also want to encourage unionists to come out to vote and to transfer to other pro-union candidates.
“Jeff Dudgeon has been a councillor for five years now and on Thursday people can pass judgement on his record. I am happy to put myself before the people of Balmoral on the basis of my promises to the community and the record of my party colleagues in the area.
“I also want to encourage unionists to come out to vote and to transfer to other pro-union candidates.