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22 May 1997 Edition

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Editor's desk

A very strange SDLP election leaflet was delivered to houses in Newry last weekend. It was replying to a Sinn Féin leaflet which for the last three weeks has been distributed by Sinn Féin canvassers. As reported in An Phoblacht last week, it presented evidence of SDLP Councillors' many trips abroad at Council expense.

The first strange thing about the SDLP reply is that it was posted using a franking machine. The postmark on some of the envelopes was 16 January 1996. My suspicious mind wondered if this was an attempt to avoid having to include it in their election expenses. I rang the Post Office. ``Completely our fault,'' said a spokesman. ``300 of the envelopes were accidentally put through an old machine.''

They told me that 3,500 leaflets were posted first class. That would cost £910. The SDLP has four candidates in Newry allowed to spend £438 each. The little A4 leaflet represented over half of their election expenses.


The second strange thing about the leaflet is its content. Besides not addressing any of the claims in the Sinn Féin leaflet, it carries the claim that ``all Council travel amounted to less than a third of a penny per household''. There are 29,000 households in the Council area. Multiply those by a third of a penny and you get £97. The travel expenditure during the last Council term was £170,000.


The final strange thing about the leaflet are ``facts'' about ``Republican violence 1973 - 1996''. Not even the NIO would accuse republicans of causing more deaths than all of the combatants have caused between them. But the intriguing question is, why do their ``facts'' begin in 1973? Of course, by choosing that starting point they avoid including Bloody Sunday and British Army killings of civilians in Newry and elsewhere in 1972. But a more likely reason why 1973 was chosen as their starting point is that 1973 was the year in which one well-known SDLP councillor from Newry and Mourne left the IRA.


Amid all the talk about voter apathy in the 26 Counties, particularly among young people, I can report one piece of good news. A survey of students from the Dublin Institute of Technology Students' Union, which covers four colleges, found that Sinn Féin was up to 5% while poor old Democratic Left was credited with exactly 0%.


Sean Crowe, Sinn Féin's candidate in Dublin South West, has hit the ground running, so to speak, in his election campaign. His local paper headlined an article about him: ``Flying start to the Crowe campaign''.


My old friend, Ruth Dudley Edwards, who assures me she enjoys Editor's Desk, has written a very peculiar article about Martin McGuinness in the Irish Independent.

She tells how she found herself in an RTE hospitality suite with him and was forced to engage in ``the thinnest of thin small talk'', which she found difficult to stomach despite his ``pleasant smile'' and polite manner. She was eventually rescued by ``a brace of constitutional politicians''.

But something of Martin's charm must have left an impression because when she found herself in Mid Ulster at the time of the Westminster election, she writes, ``I discovered to my slight surprise that I had an urge to attend on him and see how he dealt with a foe on his own territory''. Off she went ``to attend on him'' (whatever that means) and, would you believe, she ended talking to him about fishing. But don't be fooled. It was a ruse by Ruth to find out what Martin felt about cruel sports.

As for Martin, he referred to Ruth as ``my number one fan''. He obviously hasn't seen the film ``Misery''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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