Sinn Fein’s newly elected TDs are to take part in a series of pre-election events as the party presents itself as an effective all-Ireland party, in contrast to the SDLP.
Tensions are rising in the North ahead of Assembly and local council elections, which are to take place on May 5.
Sinn Fein is holding six ‘town hall’ meetings across the Six Counties with an accompanying poster campaign to pledge “leadership across Ireland”.
The events begin in west Belfast when the constituency’s former MP, party president Gerry Adams, was joined by Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald and Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty.
Others aiming to boost the campaign are Donegal North East TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn, Kerry TD Martin Ferris, Dublin m Aengus O Snodaigh and Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe.
South Belfast candidate Alex Maskey said the meetings would give voters a chance to engage with the party’s leaders. “It is our firm view that we want to go out and listen to the views and opinions of our people as we face into an election and a new assembly term,” he said.
Sinn Fein is facing a number of independent republican opponents in the elections, while eirigi is contesting the local elections in two west Belfast wards.
eirigi candidate for the Lower Falls, John McCusker, has claimed the publication of a report on rising levels of deprivation was proof that “Stormont isn’t working” for working class people.
According to the report for the Stormont Assembly, the Whiterock, Falls and Shankill areas, all in West Belfast, and the New Lodge in North Belfast, make up the four most poverty-stricken areas in the Six Counties.
Mr McCusker said: “This report should serve as a wake up call for the communities in question. Just like British direct rule ministers before them, the establishment politicians at Stormont have failed working class communities.”
POSTERS ‘PULLED DOWN’
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has accused ‘dissidents’ for verbally abusing election canvassers in County Armagh.
The party’s election posters have also been pulled down in the Drumbeg estate, Craigavon.
“I see it as an attempt to intimidate voters,” said local Assembly member John O’Dowd.
“It is petty harassment. When we have been out knocking on doors they have been following us around hurling foul-mouthed abuse. I have had it happen to me and my council colleague Tommy O’Connor has had it happen to him.”
Mr O’Dowd said the ripping down of election posters happened so often it had almost become a “custom”.
“We would be on the ground quite a lot, whether it is through constituency work or leafleting or whatever, and this would happen quite often,” he added.
“It is designed to intimidate you and make you put the clip board under your arm and walk away, but that won’t happen.”
A pre-election row has also broken out following a decision to postpone the construction of a radiotherapy unit in Derry.
Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he could “guarantee” to reverse the move after the election.
Ulster Unionist Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said last week funding was “insufficient” for the unit in the predominately nationalist city.
Mr McGuinness said the move was “shameful, highly political and sectarian”.