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Unionist spat injects vigour into dull contest

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland’s lacklustre election battle finally sparked into life on the unionist side with less than two weeks left to go.

The gloves came off at grassroots level after DUP leader Peter Robinson demanded an apology from his Ulster Unionist counterpart Tom Elliott.

But the UUP boss refused to withdraw his claim that the First Minister had described the performance of Education Minister Caitriona Ruane as “great”.

The spat at the top sent a signal to local constituencies like Upper Bann, where the fight for the last seat between the DUP, UUP and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) could be tight.

Ulster Unionist candidate Colin McCusker — son of the late UUP MP Harold — was accused by DUP rival Stephen Moutray of being a “parrot” for Gerry Adams, who had described the relationship between Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as being like a pair of “Siamese twins”.

Mr McCusker said Mr Adams had “let the cat out of the bag”.

“It explains why Peter Robinson chose to focus on Michael McGimpsey as he fought to defend the health budget, whilst at the same time praising the record of two Sinn Fein ministers for showing budgetary discipline,” he said.

TUV candidate David Vance, meanwhile, has criticised both the DUP’s Jim Wells and the UUP’s John McCallister for lauding Amnesty International’s highlighting of victims of trafficking and institutional child abuse.

“The UUP and DUP have no excuse for being ignorant of Amnesty International’s stance on Northern Ireland.

“They have very publicly attacked the security forces while ignoring the human rights violations perpetrated by terrorists,” Mr Vance said.

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