Belfast Telegraph

Twitter stand-off sees DUP and UUP candidates clash over unionist vote transfers

By Leona O'Neill

Two Londonderry unionist election candidates have had a very public falling out over transferring votes.

A ferocious social media spat ensued after the DUP's Gary Middleton posed a question to UUP candidate Julia Kee about transferring votes to him in the March 2 poll.

The query came after Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt announced that he intends to give the SDLP his second preference vote in a move which sparked controversy within his party.

Fellow Ulster Unionists Harold McKee and Danny Kennedy said that they would not be following Mr Nesbitt's example, leading Mr Middleton to take to social media to ask the UUP's Julia Kee about her position.

The row quickly escalated with Mr Middleton calling Ms Kee "pathetic" and Ms Kee firing a shot over his bow about RHI and calling her opposition "arrogance personified".

Mr Middleton said he was simply pointing out what other candidates had done, and wanted to know her position on vote transfers and that he did not wish to engage in a Twitter row.

"I have gathered now that, obviously, her opinion is that she wouldn't be transferring votes to unionist candidates," he said.

Responding to Ms Kee's comments that she was 'fed up with scandals, local and national, oil and wood pellets, he continued: "I have nothing to hide, I have done nothing wrong. The RHI scheme, yes, everyone recognises that it is a serious issue. At the same time that's why we need our assembly back to ensure that that is addressed.

"The only way to do that is to ensure that there is an assembly in place. I don't see that as an issue as to why she won't transfer to me, but again she has made her position clear.

"I can assure you that there are a lot of people who are angry at Mike Nesbitt's comments. This isn't a sectarian thing. I am a believer in the United Kingdom and the Union. And that's why I want to ensure that there is a unionist representative in Foyle.

"It will be a disaster if we went back to zero unionist representation here, and that is what my fear is."

But Mr Middleton said that, as far as he is concerned, there are no hard feelings.

"It might seem like myself and Julia have fallen out, certainly in a public arena," he commented. "But if I see Julia tomorrow I will greet her in my normal fashion and have manners."

Ms Kee said she was just being 'brutally honest', and felt the argument was 'childish and pathetic'.

"I didn't say that I wasn't going to transfer votes to Gary," she said. "I asked what anyone would ask when someone is asking for your vote. Why should I vote for you? I was being brutally honest. Then he came back with 'pathetic'. Is that what he thinks of his voters? That we are pathetic? I thought his terminology was really derogatory. He came back as if it was a fight.

"He can't even give me a decent answer as to why I should transfer."

Ms Kee refused to be drawn on whether she would encourage her voters to transfer votes to the SDLP or DUP, but that voters should instead listen to their conscience.

Belfast Telegraph


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