South Down: DUP supporters didn't dump Sinn Fein posters in sea, says Wells
South Down MLA Jim Wells has insisted that DUP supporters were not responsible for destroying Sinn Fein election posters and dumping them in the sea.
The damaged campaign placards promoting Westminster candidate Chris Hazzard were discovered in Kilkeel harbour yesterday morning, less than 10 days after they were put up.
Mr Wells told the Belfast Telegraph that while he opposed the removal of posters, he would rather they were not put up in the first place.
"I am not in support of taking down campaign posters, and I can assure you it isn't DUP supporters doing it, for the simple reason that there would be retaliation," Mr Wells said.
"There has to be a bit of common sense applied, and posters should not be put up in areas where they will antagonise people."
Mr Hazzard condemned the vandalism as "anti-democratic", but vowed his campaign would not be deterred.
He also described the incident as a sign that people were worried about the "momentum and positivity" around his election drive.
"Clearly, some people are afraid of change and the positive momentum around Sinn Fein's campaign in South Down," Mr Hazzard said.
"There were also large posters destroyed showing Sinn Fein's support for the campaign to save services at Daisy Hill Hospital."
Party councillor Sean Doran said volunteers had dedicated a lot of time to erecting the posters, and branded the actions "disgusting".
"They didn't disappear in 10 minutes - it would have taken hours," he added.
"It's part of a vicious campaign here in South Down. It also happened in March, and it's totally disgusting."
Former Health Minister Mr Wells said he had long advocated for the use of posters to be abandoned, and repeated calls for the money to be donated to the RNLI instead.
"They don't work and it's a waste of money - they are £4.60 a go," he added. "In 2003 my printer let me down and I had no posters, but it was my best ever election result. No one is impressed by our good looks and none of us amount to an oil painting. People don't want to look at pictures of politicians."
Mr Wells also recalled how a young woman once took his poster down for her bedroom wall, but conceded it was not worth boasting about because she was drunk at the time.
"On another occasion a man once took my poster for his barn window to scare the crows off," he said. "He assures me he hasn't been bothered since. I laughed at that one."