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Gutter politics: New level of nastiness in Northern Ireland's 2015 election campaign

By Alex kane

Published 08/05/2015

Politics is at its ugliest in North Belfast, where Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly and the DUP's Nigel Dodds will contest one of the tightest races of the election.
Politics is at its ugliest in North Belfast, where Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly and the DUP's Nigel Dodds will contest one of the tightest races of the election.

The nature of elections is that a candidate will get the odd crank letter.

That sort of thing goes with the territory.

There are cranks out there and they do send anonymous letters: sometimes to the candidate themselves and sometimes to the media.

But when hundreds of anonymous letters are sent by first-class post (60p per stamp) to voters in one constituency, making malicious accusations about a candidate - as happened to Nigel Dodds in North Belfast this week - then you know it is more than the work of the lone crank.

And when the homes of politicians are the target for bomb threats and paint attacks - as happened to Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson and Martin McGuinness - you can also be fairly certain that it's more than the work of the lone crank.

During this campaign, a number of candidates have been the subject of clearly well-orchestrated smear campaigns by people who claim to have "hard evidence" - yet never seem prepared to put it in the public domain under their own name.

I've also been told all sorts of things about candidates from all of the parties, yet the people who tell me never seem to have a single scrap of evidence to back up their "sure, the dogs in the street know it" accusations.

And when I say I need evidence before I make it public, I'm accused of being part of a "media conspiracy" to cover up the truth.

I've commented before about a new level of nastiness in politics here, much of it driven on social media, particularly by faceless, nameless Twitter accounts.

But I also detected a more hands-on approach this time, as well.

It's probably to do with the decreasing electoral gap between the DUP and Sinn Fein and, if truth be told, it almost certainly helps the candidate, or party, at whom it's directed.

So, it's both nasty and stupid. Much like the faceless people behind it.

Alex Kane is a writer and commentator

Read more:

Sinn Fein denies 'fake letter' smear bid on Nigel Dodds  

Sinn Fein MEP's anger as bedridden and Alzheimer's-hit mother is the target of dissident bomb threats  

 

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