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Taking issue with front page headline

The headline of the Belfast Telegraph on Friday, April 1 branded both Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson as 'Brutes'.

The context of the headline was a comment by a political opponent and fellow Executive member, Alex Attwood, who allegedly referred to the atmosphere at Executive meetings as being "brutal".

The Belfast Telegraph chose very deliberately to take this statement, make the leap and produce a headline which was, in my view, designed to attack, in a very direct way, both Martin McGuinness's and Peter Robinson's character and integrity.

At no time was normal journalistic practice followed and a response sought from either Sinn Fein or Martin McGuinness.

For the record, this Executive has been the first to fulfil a full term - unlike the previous attempts, under the leadership of the SDLP and UUP, when the Executive was an example of how not to do business.

The two principal figures, Seamus Mallon and David Trimble, barely spoke and this atmosphere contaminated the general body politic.

Over the course of the past four years, Martin McGuinness has developed solid working relationships, first with Ian Paisley and subsequently with Peter Robinson.

This has enabled the Executive to deliver free prescriptions, free travel for the over-60s, a block on water charges, a £150 payment to the most vulnerable households, rate relief for small businesses, increased job creation through foreign direct investment, more than £5bn in capital investment and, recently, £61m for the GAA - among a raft of other significant achievements.

None of this would have been possible if the tone of the Belfast Telegraph article was a reality.

Sinn Fein has no issue with normal political debate and reportage. We do have an issue with inaccurate and politically subjective comment - particularly in the midst of an important election campaign.

JOHN O'DOWD MLA

Sinn Fein Assembly group leader

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