Loyalists trying to intimidate SDLP candidates, Eastwood claims

The party leader was in Derry on Friday to unveil the SDLP’s election campaign bus.
Loyalists trying to intimidate SDLP candidates, Eastwood claims

By David Young, PA

The leader of the SDLP has warned that loyalists are attempting to intimidate his party’s election candidates across Northern Ireland.

Colum Eastwood expressed concern about the “fraught” nature of the campaign so far, but insisted his colleagues would not be deterred.

His comments came after a spate of incidents involving the theft or damage of election posters, and encounters where candidates have been threatened.

In the most serious, SDLP candidate in south Belfast, Elsie Trainor, was assaulted and subjected to sectarian abuse after confronting two youths who had been removing her election posters.

Election – 2022
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (left) and South Belfast candidate Elsie Trainor following the assault incident in Ormeau Park (Rebecca Black/PA)

Police are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

Several Stormont parties have reported incidents of poster thefts in the first few weeks of the Assembly election campaign.

Mr Eastwood was speaking in Derry as he unveiled the SDLP’s branded election campaign bus.

He was joined by candidates as they showed off a vehicle bearing slogans and pledges about the cost-of-living crisis.

“The beginning of this campaign has been fraught with difficulty for many candidates, not least some of the candidates standing with us today,” said the Foyle MP.

“Loyalists have tried to intimidate our people right across the North and they were at it again last night (another poster-related incident).

“They need to understand though that they won’t put us off standing for the people that we represent.

“But, most importantly, we will not be moved from focusing relentlessly on the issues that really matter to people.

“We’ve put it on the side of a bus because we really believe we need to get money back into people’s pockets.

“The real issues in this campaign are the fact that people, many of whom are at work, can’t even put food on their table and are worried about turning their heating on at night. That’s a disgrace.

“That’s why the SDLP is running in this election, to make sure that we have a government after this election and to make sure that we have a government that actually does something to relieve the concerns of ordinary working people.”

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