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Politicians condemn paramilitaries after bullet sent to pregnant SDLP candidate Nichola Mallon

By Suzanne Breen

A six months' pregnant SDLP politician has been sent a bullet in the post by loyalist paramilitaries.

The PSNI is investigating the death threat which was sent to the party's Assembly candidate in north Belfast, Nichola Mallon, in recent weeks.

The threat follows Ms Mallon's staunch criticism of Stormont's Social Investment Fund (SIF) and her demand that UDA boss Dee Stitt resign from his £35,000-a-year job as chief executive of Charter NI.

The threat against Ms Mallon was reported initially to local police, but was passed on to the PSNI's C3 unit, formerly Special Branch, who are now investigating it.

The outgoing North Belfast MLA is due to give birth to her second child in May. Her party colleagues last night expressed their disgust that she had been targeted.

And Alliance leader Naomi Long, who has herself received loyalist death threats, voiced her "absolute sympathy and support" for Ms Mallon in standing up to intimidation.

The SDLP politician lives in north Belfast with her husband, Brendan Scott, who works in PR, and her 18-month-old daughter Elena. Ms Mallon last night said that she wouldn't be deterred from speaking out against paramilitaries. "As someone who has stood before the electorate and been elected to represent the people of North Belfast, I am entitled to ask questions about how public money is being spent," she said.

"It is an affront to democracy that thugs and paramilitaries react to these legitimate questions by threatening and attempting to intimidate me. Like many others in the SDLP before me, I will not be bullied into silence."

There is no suggestion that Mr Stitt was in any way involved in the threat against Ms Mallon.

Condemning the threat, Naomi Long said: "I'm totally shocked by this threat and those who are behind it should be ashamed of themselves. It is completely unacceptable that a young mother who is pregnant should be put under this stress. I know personally what a frightening experience it is and the stress it places on your wider family."

Ms Long, and other Alliance colleagues, were sent bullets in the post during the loyalist flags protest.

Alban Maginness, who previously held the SDLP's North Belfast Assembly seat, said he condemned the threat to his colleague's life in the strongest possible terms. "It is outrageous that Nichola Mallon has been sent a bullet in the post," he said.

"She has done so much to help people in the area and to promote peace and reconciliation in our society. In the past, the police warned me to be careful and to check under my car.

"I never received a specific threat, but I am horrified that Nichola has. She has been so courageous in speaking out against paramilitaries. She is a fearless critic of anything corrupt and untoward."

A PSNI spokesman last night said: "We do not discuss the security of individuals. However, if we receive information that a person's life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk."

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