Republican News · Thursday 8 May 1997

[An Phoblacht]

SDLP tactics slammed

SINN FEIN HAS accused SDLP members of ``aggressive behaviour'' during last Thursday's election in West and North Belfast, constituencies where the party's vote was under pressure from Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin activists pinpointed three areas, Ardoyne in North Belfast and Lenadoon and Ballymurphy in the West of the city, where the SDLP challenged voters ``in an intimidating and aggressive manner'', they said.

``The SDLP seemed to have a deliberate policy of causing disruption,'' said Gerry Kelly, the Sinn Féin candidate in North Belfast. He said that SDLP officials whom he spoke to admitted that it would suit the SDLP to have polling stations closed down.

According to the reports we have received SDLP officials in the polling stations challenged a large number of voters, accusing them of personation.

``In one instance in Lenadoon, in Oliver Plunkett school, the SDLP representative, a community worker and candidate for the party in the council elections in Lower Falls, was aggressively challenging people. One woman who moved to the area recently was challenged and despite having valid identification was subjected to a humiliating experience as she was brought aside and the RUC were called in. They were trying to intimidate our voters,'' said Sinn Féin's Martin Livingstone. The woman's husband was also subjected to the same abuse when he turned up to vote later.

Meanwhile in Ardoyne SDLP personnel were warned by election officials to curb their behaviour in what was a bizarre attempt to prevent Sinn Féin representatives from marking registers. They claimed Sinn Féin was marking registers ``illegally'', but the presiding officer warned the SDLP about their behaviour.

SDLP tactics backfired in Black's Road polling station when the SDLP challenged a young person, a first time voter. The young woman was so aggrieved that she changed her mind and voted for Gerry Adams.

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