Paula Bradshaw should withdraw 'outrageous slur' on nationalists, says SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell
The SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell has said comments from Alliance candidate Paula Bradshaw which suggest nationalists are incapable of fairly representing constituents are "an outrageous slur and should be withdrawn".
Ms Bradshaw said the nationalist SDLP "by its very definition, cannot therefore provide fair representation to everyone."
The Alliance candidate for South Belfast said: "Colum Eastwood claimed his party represents everyone but in the same breath admitted the SDLP is a nationalist party. By its very definition, it cannot therefore provide fair representation to everyone.
"In South Belfast for example, which is the most open and diverse constituency in Northern Ireland, people should have representatives who can stand up for everyone, not just one section of the community.
"This just smacks of desperation and gives into the politics of fear. What about everyone who doesn't identify as unionist or nationalist? We have had enough of sectarian headcounts. Alliance is the only party able to challenge both unionism and nationalism in South Belfast and beyond, as evidenced at the most recent Assembly election."
The SDLP's South Belfast Westminster candidate said he was shocked by the comments and that "there is nothing sectarian about believing in a United Ireland."
Dr McDonnell said: "As a doctor and over the course of my political career I have helped thousands of people in South Belfast. Not once in that time have I asked them to declare their political or religious background. It is my core belief that if anyone comes to you in need, you do anything you can to help them.
"I was shocked and deeply disappointed to see Paula Bradshaw suggest that my colleagues and I are unable to fairly represent people because we’re nationalists.
"There is nothing sectarian about believing in a United Ireland or a United Kingdom. It is an insult and a slur on communities not just in south Belfast but across Northern Ireland to make such a suggestion.
"I have worked my entire life to reconcile the traditions on this island. I reject entirely the suggestion that I have been unfair in my representation of people. Paula Bradshaw should withdraw her remarks immediately and apologise to those she has attacked."