Dromore group accused of ‘intimidation’

Dromore Unionist Voice this week stands accused of

“intimidation” after two SDLP election candidates received mail said to call for the exclusion of certain groups from the district’s political arena.

The self-styled “peaceful” political watchdog group has also been condemned for what one party is calling an attack on the democratic right to express views, this after the DUV reportedly circulated leaflets not only urging the year-round flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall, but calling for Dromore to be kept free of SDLP election posters.

SDLP Lagan River candidate Maureen Litter and Banbridge candidate and sitting councillor Marie Hamilton received what they called “intimidating mail”, addressed to District Council Offices, Banbridge and bearing both candidates’ names.

In a joint statement they said: “With the run-up to this election we have been out with friends, family and the SDLP European candidate, Alex Attwood canvassing widely throughout the two DEAs, calling on as many homes as possible.

“Our intention was to ask everyone to consider giving us a vote and if we are fortunate enough to get elected to work for all of the people - no matter what their political, religious or cultural background.

“We both believe a problem is a problem and if you are an elected representative you should do your best for everyone.

“As a result, we are deeply disappointed that anyone would want to exclude us from the democratic process by removing election posters and posting intimidating mail, suggesting they speak for all of the people of Lagan River DEA.

“They stated they are a peaceful group, yet the language incorporated in the two leaflets indicates they want to exclude certain groups of people from the district’s political arena. We would question why their views are of more value than those of any other citizen.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if this country is to move forward we must learn to accept our differences and work together to make this a progressive country to live in. No town or district should be exclusive to any one side of the religious divide.”

Alex Attwood added: “I have canvassed with both Marie and Maureen in Dromore and other locations. They are exemplary candidates and women of real commitment and courage. I fully support them in their election bids and I hope that all communities respect the democratic process enough to welcome them and their campaigns.”

Meanwhile, NI21 insisted an attack on the electioneering of any political party was an attack on everyone’s democratic right to express their views.

Party leader and Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea said: “Sadly elections can bring out the worst in some people.

“It is unacceptable that some people choose to attack, or take down, election posters for people and parties that they disagree with. This goes completely against the principles of the democratic process.

“We all understand that there is a range of views on where and when the Union flag should be flown but it seems rather ironic for anyone to express their anger by demanding election posters are taken down. What we need is the opportunity for people to put themselves forward to express their views.”