General Election 2019: Alliance Party hits out at 'fake news' IRA leaflets


General election leaflets linking the Alliance Party to the IRA have been criticised as a "fake news" campaign by the party.

Alliance's North Down candidate Stephen Farry said the leaflets had appeared "in a number of locations in Bangor".

The leaflets say that a vote for the Alliance Party allows an "IRA win".

The criticism comes after Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds condemned the smearing of any election candidate.

Mr Dodds' comments followed the removal of a banner targeting Belfast's Lord Mayor John Finucane on Monday.

Image caption,
John Finucane is contesting the North Belfast seat

The banner, in Belfast's Tiger Bay area, contained allegations about the Sinn Féin North Belfast election candidate and his family.

Mr Finucane's father, Pat, was a solicitor who was shot dead by loyalists at his home in north Belfast in 1989.

Mr Dodds said the DUP had nothing to do with the banner.

'Disingenuous and dangerous'

The leaflets in Bangor suggest an "unholy" link between the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin.

"Don't let the IRA have the last laugh!" the leaflets add.

Mr Farry said the posters were not only "disingenuous but they are also dangerous, placing myself and other Alliance candidates, as well as our canvassers and supporters, at risk".

He said "fake news seems to be the dominant narrative" of the election campaign so far.

"This fake news and gutter politics is wrong and it needs to stop immediately, right across Northern Ireland." he added.

Mr Farry is a candidate in the North Down constituency, which is also being contested by the DUP's Alex Easton, the Ulster Unionist Party's Alan Chambers and Matthew Robinson of the NI Conservatives.

Banners in North and South Belfast condemned

His comments come after the removal of the banner about Mr Finucane and reports to the police about banners erected in south Belfast targeting SDLP candidate Claire Hanna.

Belfast City Council workers were flanked by police as they removed the banner on Monday.

Supt Melanie Jones said police were in attendance "to ensure the safety of persons removing a banner from council property".

"Enquiries are under way to establish if these banners constitute any criminal offence or offences, including a hate incident or hate crime," added Supt Jones.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Nigel Dodds said the DUP had nothing to do with the banner in North Belfast

Mr Dodds said the DUP had been "crystal clear" on the use of violence and the activity of those who take part in "vile internet trolling" of victims and some unionist politicians.

He also challenged Sinn Féin not to be selective, calling on republicans to "stop eulogising the violent perpetrators of the IRA" including the gunman who shot a police officer guarding him when he was visiting his seriously ill son in hospital in 1996.

The banners were condemned by Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken, who said they "need to come down, no two ways about it", while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said there had been an "appalling and dangerous" campaign of "harassment, intimidation and threats against John Finucane and his family".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the banners against Mr Finucane and Ms Hanna were "disgusting".

"Those responsible are cynically using, abusing and retraumatising victims for narrow political purposes."

Mr Finucane is a candidate in next month's Westminster election in the North Belfast constituency, which is also being contested by outgoing DUP MP Mr Dodds and Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party.

Ms Hanna is a candidate in the South Belfast constituency, which is also being contested by: Paula Bradshaw, Alliance; Michael Henderson, UUP; outgoing DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly; and Chris McHugh, Aontú.

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