Meehan launches manifesto
At the launch of his manifesto for the South Antrim by-election in Toomebridge on Thursday, 7 September, Martin Meehan told An Phoblacht that he was confident the party would do extremely well.
``There is no doubt that our already expanding electoral base will be strengthened coming out of this campaign,'' he said.
In a predominantly unionist constituency, the struggle between the two main nationalist parties will be nonetheless acute. The question for Sinn Féin is whether the party can close the gap on the SDLP''.
As outlined in his manifesto, Meehan will be campaigning on a variety of social and economic issues as well as fighting on a pro-Good Friday Agreement platform. Both the main unionist candidates are inherently anti-Agreement even though the UUP's David Burnside is more subtle in his no position than the singing Reverend, Willie McCrea.
Apart from the sectarianism that is rife in the constituency, Meehan has challenged Newtownabbey council over its employment practices and the continuing campaign against Catholics throughout the area. There are also endemic social problems that need to be tackled.
High on the list is the drugs problem, especially in Antrim Town. ``Sinn Féin has been leading the way in putting forward long-term strategies to deal with the drugs crisis prevalent across the constituency,'' said Meehan, who welcomed the news that a new drugs awareness centre is finally opening in Antrim Town.
The small South Antrim town of Randalstown, with its Neilsbrook estate, has become synonymous with the ongoing campaign of sectarianism being waged by loyalists against nationalists.
From an estate that was over 70% Catholic four years ago, there are now only a handful of Catholic families left.
In the last year alone, ten families have been forced out and throughout the month of July, with the increase in tension due to the Drumcree situation, life became worse for the remaining Catholic families.
A widow who had lived in the area for 36 years and a single parent had their windows smashed in the Twelfth week. Both left their homes.
The estate is festooned with UVF and Red Hand Commando insignia and flags, a clear indication that these organisations are behind the intimidation.
One man who spoke to An Phoblacht during the summer said that there were a number of known UVF men on the estate who were orchestrating the violence, including the sending of bullets in the post to Catholic families.