Sinn Féin deplores DUP’s ‘unionist town’ anti-canvassing tweet
Gildernew rejects ‘no-go areas’ after Jim Wells says party isn’t welcome in Rathfriland
Jim Wells’s deleted tweet: “Many complaints about Sinn Féin canvassing in Rathfriland yesterday,” the DUP politician wrote. “They are not welcome in this Unionist town.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Sinn Féin politician Michelle Gildernew has criticised a tweet from the DUP Northern Ireland Assembly member Jim Wells, who said her party wasn’t welcome to canvass in the “unionist town” of Rathfriland.
Mr Wells posted the tweet on Monday after a Sinn Féin team went canvassing on Sunday in Rathfriland, in the South Down constituency, where Ms Gildernew’s colleague Chris Hazzard is seeking to unseat the outgoing SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie.
“Many complaints about Sinn Féin canvassing in Rathfriland yesterday,” Mr Wells wrote. “They are not welcome in this Unionist town – particularly on a Sunday.”
Thirty-nine per cent of Rathfriland’s residents are from a Catholic background and 57 per cent from a Protestant tradition.
Mr Wells subsequently deleted his tweet.
On Tuesday Ms Gildernew, who is standing in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, called on the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, “to make it clear there are no no-go areas for election workers and canvassers”.
“These remarks came on the back of the intimidation of Sinn Féin election workers in Portadown, the removal and destruction of Sinn Féin posters in South Down and here in Fermanagh South Tyrone,” she said.
“I call on Arlene Foster to distance herself from Mr Wells’s remarks and to show leadership in this situation. Party leaders have a responsibility to ensure there can be no no-go areas for people involved in the democratic process.”
The DUP responded: “All parties have a right to canvass for votes. We recognise, however, that many people value the special nature of Sunday and do not wish to have this intruded upon by political canvassers from any party. The tweet in question was deleted shortly after it was posted.”