UUP distances itself from Belfast election leaflet - Alliance anger at 'IRA link'
The Ulster Unionist Party has distanced itself from an election leaflet distributed in parts of Belfast and which the Alliance party said was a deliberate attempt to link the party with the IRA in the run up to the local government elections.
The leaflet for Jim Rodgers and Peter Johnston was distributed in the Ormiston area of east Belfast. It also goes on to list the records of the two candidates from their time on the council.
"The Alliance party on Belfast City Council has demonstrated repeatedly during the lifetime of the council that they are closely aligned to Sinn Fein," the leaflet stated.
"Their record shows time and time again they vote with the Provisional IRA's political wing."
Alliance leader Naomi Long said the leaflet placed her representatives at risk saying that in the past in the area one councillor was forced out of their home. She said it was "par for the course" for misinformation to be distributed by the party and highlighted how unionist parties had also voted on the same lines as Sinn Fein.
"Quite a deliberate attempt to link Alliance to the IRA," she said, They know exactly what they're doing. They simply have no scruples."
"But they simply don't care... this shouldn't be happening at all."
This was not a central Ulster Unionist Party message. UUP
Councillor Jim Rodgers said he did not accept the IRA had disbanded and "the voting record will show Alliance have aligned with Sinn Fein which is the political wing of the Provisional IRA" but acknowledged other parties would have voted along the same lines as the republican party.
He said they were not "stirring up tensions" with the leaflet.
"We do not want anyone to be attacked or intimidated," he said.
"But the voting record will show that Alliance, moreso in this council than in any other, voted along with Sinn Fein. And no one can deny Sinn Fein is the political wing of the IRA."
In a statement, the UUP said: "This was not a central Ulster Unionist Party message. It is included in a leaflet distributed in the Ormiston DEA. The matter has been referred to Party Officers.
“Naomi Long advised Robin Swann that she had also referred the leaflet to the Local Government Ombudsman.”
There was widespread condemnation of the leaflet as it circulated on Twitter with many describing it as "sinister" including some from a unionist background.
Mrs Long said she had contacted UUP leader Robin Swann.
"Twitter is full of this: make stuff up, get irate about imaginary stuff you made up, blame me and Alliance for it, rinse and repeat," she added.
The Alliance leader said the material was "standard for the UUP in east Belfast". She pointed to the 40,000 leaflets delivered to homes at the time of the flag protests. During the time Alliance offices were attacked and representatives threatened.
The MLA also pointed out another leaflet was wrong on how the party had voted on an issue.
"They must be under pressure," said Naomi Long.
That leaflet was distributed throughout east Belfast and it said the UUP delivered over £200,000 of funding for Belmont Bowling Club stating "for some unknown reason the Alliance Party opposed giving finance toward the project".
The council's official record of the matter does not report of any vote being held or any objections from the Alliance party. Had there been a recorded vote, those councillors who supported it and disagreed with it would have been listed.
Alliance Belfast councillor Michael Long, who was at meetings over the matter, said his party supported the bowling club funding and had "absolutely no reason" to oppose it.
"I don't mind arguing policies with others." said Michael Long, "but this is scraping the barrel. it is very frustrating as it is very hard to argue against."
Jim Rodgers said he stood by the claims made in the leaflets.
Belfast Telegraph Digital