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DUP rapped for using London bus at election manifesto launch

Published 23/04/2015

Peter Robinson sits behind the wheel of a London Routemaster bus at the launch of the Democratic Unionist Party election manifesto at Wrightbus in Antrim. Pic Charles McQuillan/Getty
Peter Robinson sits behind the wheel of a London Routemaster bus at the launch of the Democratic Unionist Party election manifesto at Wrightbus in Antrim. Pic Charles McQuillan/Getty

The DUP has been rapped after it used a red London bus as part of its general election manifesto launch without permission.

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesman said it was not aware of the event which was staged at the Wrightbus plant near Ballymena, where the distinctive vehicle is manufactured.

He said: "We were not aware of (this) event and, had we been asked, we would not have given permission for the bus to be used given pre-election rules for public bodies.

"We are, of course, very proud of our association with Wrightbus and the work we do with them in Northern Ireland and look forward to future collaborations with them," the spokesman added.

Tuesday's event was held at the company's Antrim premises and included DUP candidates for Westminster posing beside a London double decker bus at the plant.

The firm, based in Ballymena, is supplying 600 of the hybrid-engine vehicles to London in a contract worth more than £200m.

The design copyright for the Routemaster is owned by Transport for London.

Strict rules ban taxpayer-funded resources from being used for any election campaigning purposes.

Wrightbus founder William Wright (87) was one of those who signed the nomination papers of incumbent DUP MP and candidate in North Antrim, Ian Paisley.

The SDLP's pokesperson for regional Development John Dallat MLA has criticised the DUP and Wrightbus management for hosting the DUP launch in front of the Bus.

He said: "This latest incident demonstrates an arrogance and complete contempt for the rules on behalf of the DUP."

"Election rules ban tax payer funded resources being used for election campaigning purposes. Transport for London have since stated that they would have flat out refused the DUP on the most basic grounds that they are a state funded company and this was a party political event.

"It is highly suspect that a company that has received millions from InvestNI and great support from DETI headed by the DUP’s Arlene Foster should facilitate such rule breaking this way. A company who have in the past had extreme difficulty in meeting fair employment targets.

"This is not the DUPs first election and they know full well the rules of the game. They must also make explicit whether they paid for the use of Wrightbus’ premises or if this will be considered a donation to their campaign."

A DUP spokesman said: "Wrightbus is an excellent example of Northern Ireland engineering success. Our number one priority in the Northern Ireland Plan for a hung parliament is to make Northern Ireland an economic powerhouse.

"If we are pivotal in the next Parliament, we will use our influence to bring more jobs like those in Wrightbus to the province. Yesterday showcased a great company right across the UK."

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