28 April 2005 Edition
Loyalists and PSNI target Sinn Féin election workers
Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd has said he is gravely concerned that unionist paramilitaries are targeting Sinn Féin election workers in the Lurgan area.
He said that last Friday, party workers who were erecting election posters in the North Lurgan area became aware that they were being monitored by the occupants of a suspicious vehicle. The vehicle's occupants were identified as two well known LVF members.
"This incident comes less than two weeks after I was informed by the PSNI that my own life was in danger following the arrest of a loyalist who had documentation in his possession which related to me," said O'Dowd. "It has since transpired that the arrested person was connected to the LVF. No charges were proferred against this loyalist by the PSNI.
"This most recent incident shows that known LVF members are confident enough to prowl a nationalist area without fear of being apprehended by the PSNI."
And Fermanagh/South Tyrone candidate Michelle Gildernew has expressed disgust at PSNI harassment of her election workers. Gildernew said that "an election campaign is hard enough without having to deal with PSNI officers who are harassing canvassers.
"On four separate occasions since 13 April the PSNI have stopped canvassers and abused them. This abuse takes the form of verbal abuse, following canvassers as they do their job, threatening arrest due to obstruction and stopping canvassers on their way to election work.
"We are the only political party who has to deal with this kind of behaviour from the British forces," said Gildernew. "Those who are supposed to uphold law and order and facilitate democracy are instead making a mockery of it."
Loyalist election workers terrorised residents of a nationalist housing estate in Coleraine on Tuesday night.
The gang accompanied Independent Unionist candidate and well-known loyalist Russell Watton as he erected posters in the nationalist Somerset Drive area.
A number of residents told An Phoblacht that two vanloads of loyalists came into the estate armed with batons and Stanley knives and started to shout sectarian slogans. One witness said members of the PSNI arrived and immediately focused their intentions on removing nationalist residents from the vicinity.
Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Leonard acknowledged the right of political parties to put up election posters but said there was no reason for any party to arrive armed with cudgels and knives.