Loyalists threaten election candidates and workers
Loyalists threaten election candidates and workers


Three political parties have been targeted by loyalists ahead of local elections next month.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín described an incident in which sectarian graffiti was sprayed onto walls at the home of a party candidate as ‘mind boggling’.

The graffiti has been blamed on the unionist paramilitary UDA. The organisation have been engaged in a violent feud in north Down, where 25 vehicles were damaged in an arson attack last week, and there are fears the violence there could spill over into sectarian attacks.

Aontú candidate Sharon Loughran, who has been campaigning for the retention of hospital services in Newry, said the words ‘Aontú IRA out’ had been spray painted onto the wall of her home, with ‘UDA’ also written on two further walls.

“This has come as a massive shock to me. It is an attack on my home and it is a violation. As a result it as created significant stress. I have reported this shocking incident to the police and I am meeting them today,” she said.

She noted that Aontú “didn’t exist during the troubles” and that its members are former SDLP, Fianna Fáil and even Labour Party members.

“Most of our members were never members of any other political party and are new to political activism. Indeed since our formation we have reached out and met with many within the Protestant and unionist community.

“That this type of intimidation is happening in 2023 is incredible. That we have a never ending political vacuum at Stormont is in no doubt not helping the development of good community relationships.”

Peadar Tóibín said the incident was a “shocking effort” to intimidate a community activist out of running for council.

“It’s an attack on the democratic process,” he said. “It’s especially mind boggling given that Sharon’s work has always been to help both communities. Indeed Aontú’s vision of Ireland is that of Wolfe Tone.

“We want to create an Ireland where Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter can be who they are without fear or favour. Aontú will not deviate from this key core objective.”

People Before Profit have also said one of their candidates was “verbally and physically threatened” by masked loyalists as she and other party workers erected posters on Friday.

The party said the activists were approached as they erected the posters in the Lanark Way area of west Belfast on Friday afternoon. Posters and ladders were snatched during the incident.

It said it will not be “bowed by bigots”.

“This was a deplorable attack, carried out by a minority of sectarian thugs,” said candidate Ms McCaffrey.

“Those responsible do not represent the people of the Shankill or any other pat of our city.”

An Alliance Party councillor was also threatened while canvassing. Michael Long, a former mayor of Belfast for the unaligned party, vowed “not to be deterred” after the incident last Thursday.

Mr Long, who is the husband of Alliance leader Naomi Long, said he was approached by two men who shouted abuse and told him to leave the Lisnasharragh area.

“In my 22 years as an elected representative for this area, I have never been faced with this level of intimidation,” he said.

Loyalists have also been linked to the theft of election posters in Lisburn and County Tyrone by SDLP candidate Dee French.

Mr French, who reported the removal of the posters to police, said he was “extremely disappointed” .

“I am determined to be a cross-community representative that everyone in this area can be proud of and there should be no areas where candidates are made to feel intimidated or unwelcome,” he said.

Meanwhile, independent candidate for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Emmet McAleer, said four of his posters had been removed from the County Tyrone village of Loughmacrory.

A statement on behalf of Mr McAleer, who is standing as an anti-gold mining candidate for the Mid-Tyrone DEA, said he called on all council candidates “to make clear their disgust” at the thefts.

“That such anti-democratic, criminal, dirty tactics should happen so early in the election has to be a cause for concern and we all have a duty to respond appropriately and quickly,” the statement added.

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