SF accuses Government of 'smear campaign'


Sinn Féin  today accused the Government of plotting to halt the party's electoral advance.

Senior representative Gerry Kelly also warned the DUP that their power-sharing plans will not be thwarted. Mr Kelly told supporters gathered in Belfast to mark the 1981 hunger strikes, that Sinn Féin had defied a smear campaign led by the Taoiseach, to triumph at the polls.

He declared: "Never since the Thatcher regime have I witnessed such on onslaught from the establishment attempting to criminalise our republican past and present.

"The difference this time is that the front runners in this opportunistic propaganda drive has included leading members of the SDLP as well as Irish Government ministers such as Michael McDowell and Dermot and Bertie Ahern.

"At the core of this are electoral interests in the 26 Counties.

"In pursuit of that the interests of the peace process have been set aside, the interests of national and democratic rights and the rights of citizens have been set aside."

Even though Sinn Féin faced huge pressure over the Northern Bank robbery and murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney, both blamed on the IRA, it made gains in the recent British general and local government elections. The party now has five MPs, two MEPs, five members of the Dail and 252 councillors across Ireland, Mr Kelly told supporters.

With the DUP now Northern Ireland's biggest party after the elections, the Irish and British governments face a major headache in trying to strike a deal to restore the devolved government at Stormont.

Sinn Féin said today that party president Gerry Adams and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness have been in talks with London, Dublin and Washington in an attempt to kick-start the peace process.

And Mr Kelly insisted his party would not be denied.

"Despite the onslaught, we advanced our representation and our national project," he added.

"Of course the DUP have consolidated their leadership of Unionism. Many people find Paisley's politics distasteful to say the least; the bluster, the bigotry and the belligerence.

"But if the DUP believe they can turn back the clock to 1969 or even pre 1998 (Good Friday Agreement), they have another thing coming," he said.