Belfast Telegraph

SDLP claims Mairtin O Muilleoir's sums wrong in election leaflet row

By Staff Reporter

Sinn Fein has been accused of publishing misleading figures in an election leaflet in a knife-edge constituency.

Mairtin O Muilleoir is standing in South Belfast, where rival nationalist Dr Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP is the former MP.

The seat is one of the most hotly contested in the general election, with Dr McDonnell vulnerable after taking his seat in the House of Commons with the lowest share of the vote in 2015 - just 24.5%.

However, Sinn Fein's claim that it is in the best position to unseat the former SDLP leader has come under fire.

Mr O Muilleoir published a bar chart showing Sinn Fein's 17.7% share of first preference votes in the March Assembly election in South Belfast.

It was placed beside the DUP's share - 20.8%.

Below the graph was the slogan 'Vote for the only progressive candidate who can win' alongside a photo of Mr O Muilleoir.

What the leaflet fails to mention is that Sinn Fein was a lowly fourth in terms of first preference votes.

The SDLP had a 19.4% share and Alliance had 17.4%.

Dr McDonnell later tweeted his own bar chart showing the vote share of the top four parties in March.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said: "It's ironic that a party running on a 'respect and integrity' mantra is treating the electorate like idiots.

"With a grasp of numbers this poor it is probably not surprising that Mairtin O Muilleoir failed to produce a budget as Finance Minister.

"In 2015, 2016 and 2017 Sinn Fein finished fourth in South Belfast and no amount of fake news can distract from the fact that this is a two-horse race between the pro-European Alasdair McDonnell and the Ukip and UPRG endorsed Brexiteer Emma Little Pengelly."

Alliance's South Belfast candidate Paula Bradshaw said: "I think the electorate are wise enough to know who the main contenders are so we're not worried at all.

"The electorate are aware it will be a tight race - but Sinn Fein are rarely mentioned in that race.

"I think they're underestimating the intellect of the electorate. The electorate know who the main progressive party are in South Belfast."

It is the second leaflet produced for former Belfast Lord Mayor Mr O Muilleoir that has been criticised in this election campaign.

A previous piece of literature claimed: "Since 2005 Sinn Fein's vote in South Belfast has doubled. The SDLP's has halved."

Sinn Fein's vote has indeed grown - from the 2,882 garnered by Alex Maskey in 2015 to the 5,402 Mr O Muilleoir took in 2015 - although it hasn't quite doubled.

However, Dr McDonnell's vote has not halved - it dropped from 10,339 (32.3%) in 2005 to 9,560 (24.5%) in 2015. The represents a fall of just 7.8% in vote share - nowhere near the 50% claimed by Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein did not respond to requests for comment. The DUP declined to comment.

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