Election 2019

General election 2019: Colum Eastwood claims he is the victim of 'dirty election tactics'

The SDLP leader says he is the victim of what he has described as "dirty election tactics by opponents" in Derry.
Image caption Colum Eastwood said fake letters purporting to be from him have been delivered to houses in Londonderry

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said he is the victim of what he has described as "dirty election tactics by opponents".

Mr Eastwood, who is a candidate in the Foyle constituency, said fake letters purporting to be from him have been delivered to houses in Derry.

The SDLP has referred the matter to the Electoral Commission and police.

Mr Eastwood claimed the letters, appealing for financial support, was an attempt to lie to the electorate.

The SDLP leader called on Sinn Féin to condemn them.

Sinn Féin's Foyle candidate, Elisha McCallion, tweeted that she "condemned any fake election material from any source".

"I want to see this election campaign conducted in an open and democratic way," she added.

DUP candidate Gary Middleton condemned the letters.

"There's a lot of heat in the Foyle election, but we need to ensure a fair campaign based on truth, not trying to damage peoples' characters," he added.

Mr Eastwood said the letters were not from him or anyone associated with his campaign.

"This is an organised attempt to lie to the people of Derry, to poison our democratic process and those responsible should be ashamed," he said.

Gordon McCalmont, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Derry and Strabane District Commander, said police had received a report just after 11:30 GMT on Tuesday about a letter circulating in the Foyle area in relation to the election.

"Enquiries are underway, and we are liaising with our colleagues in the Electoral Office," he added.

Police have urged anyone who has information about this letter, or who is in receipt of one to get in contact with them.

The Alliance Party candidate for Foyle, Rachael Ferguson, condemned the letter as "unacceptable".

"I was hoping for a different election and I am shocked at the tone surrounding this election," she added.

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) candidate, Darren Guy, said "votes should be won fair and square and dirty tricks are not acceptable".

He added that there should be "tougher sentences for anyone found taking this sort of action to blacken a candidate's name".

The Foyle People before Profit candidate, Shaun Harkin, said: "It's ridiculous and whoever is responsible should cease immediately.

"We've also had issues with parties attempting to misrepresent our political positions in this election," he added.

The Aontú Foyle candidate Anne McCloskey condemned "negative campaigning against other parties".

"To mislead people is fundamentally against what democracy is about," she added.

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