Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

General Election: Police probe fake SDLP Colum Eastwood donation letters

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood. Pic PA Niall Carson
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood. Pic PA Niall Carson
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Police are investigating fake letters claiming to be from SDLP leader Column Eastwood asking for cash donations to his election campaign.

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Mr Eastwood said the letters, distributed to homes in the Foyle Constituency where he is fighting to take the Westminster seat from Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion, were part of a "dirty tactics" campaign and a bid to "poison" his campaign.

He has called on Sinn Fein to condemn those responsible.

Elisha McCallion tweeted: "I condemn any fake election material from any source. I want to see this election campaign conducted in an open and democratic way."

The Foyle constituency will be one of the tightest results in the Westminster election and is expected to be a battle to the wire between Mr Eastwood and Ms McCallion.

In 2017, she took the seat from SDLP by just 169 votes.

Colum Eastwood hit out at this move to discredit his campaign stressing he had nothing to do with them.

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The letter suggests Mr Eastwood has a shortfall of £20,000 in the costs of covering his election campaign and asks the addressee for contributions of either £1,000, £3,000 or £5,000.

The SDLP has referred the matter to both police and electoral authorities.

The fake letter being circulated in Derry.

Mr Eastwood said: "I am disgusted that fake letters purporting to be from me have been delivered to houses in Derry.

"Let me be clear, these letters are not from me, nor are they from anyone associated with my campaign. This is an organised attempt to lie to the people of Derry, to poison our democratic process and those responsible should be ashamed.

"The people of Foyle know that this is a close race between myself and Elisha McCallion. Voters should make up their minds on our records, not a campaign of dirty tricks.

“Sinn Fein has called us dishonest – they must now condemn these vicious lies.

“My team and I are running a positive campaign, focusing on how we can invest in Derry, make our communities a better place and work with others to stop Brexit.

"I made it clear weeks ago that the SDLP will engage in a clean campaign and I would take strong action if anyone was suspected of nasty personal attacks.

"That has been our approach to this whole campaign and it is disappointing others have not followed suit."

Derry and Strabane District Commander Gordon McCalmont said an investigation had been opened.

He said: Police received a report about a letter circulating in the Foyle area in relation to the up and coming election.

"Enquiries are underway, and we are liaising with our colleagues in the Electoral Office.

"I would appeal to anyone who has information about this letter, or who is in receipt of such a document, to call us on 101 and quote reference number 688 of 10/12/19."

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