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Election briefing: From a TD in Dunmurry and poster tricks in West Belfast to Retail NI’s (many) talking points

Andrew Madden


The SDLP's Elsie Trainor and Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond.

The SDLP's Elsie Trainor and Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond.

The SDLP's Elsie Trainor and Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond.

Fine Gael European Affairs spokesperson Neale Richmond was fairly quiet on Thursday evening amid criticism over liking a Twitter post that claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin has the support of UK PM Boris Johnson.

The post was made following Emmanuel Macron’s French presidential election victory over right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen. “Sympathies to Vladimir Putin on the defeat of his candidate. Chin up Vlad. You still have @BorisJohnson and @ViktorOrban,” it read, the latter handle belonging to the Hungarian prime minister.

Ms Le Pen has links to Putin, previously being pictured with him in the run-up to her last bid for the French presidency in 2017. The original tweet was subsequently liked by Mr Richmond, with the apparent endorsement later removed.

Speaking to the News Letter, the DUP’s Gavin Robinson hit out at the Fine Gael TD, branding the move a “disgraceful slur”. The newspaper reported that Mr Richmond did not respond to requests for comment on Monday evening.

That may be because, looking at a few posts on social media, Mr Richmond was busy on the Assembly campaign trail with SDLP candidate Elsie Trainor in Dunmurry on Monday evening.

Interesting… I thought it was Fianna Fail the SDLP had a “partnership” with? Although nothing really seems to have come of that alliance in recent years.

Mr Richmond broke his silence on the issue on Tuesday, tweeting: “I see liking a tweet is now front-page news, a slur & cause for thunderous outrage. Imagine I’d actually said some of the lousy things that Gavin’s colleagues have said about my own party leader & deputy leader. There’s a lot going on right now, Twitter likes aren’t the issue.”

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Dirty poster tricks?

There seems to be more poster shenanigans happening over in the West Belfast constituency. The TUV has taken issue with the placement of some of DUP candidate Frank McCoubrey’s election posters. It appears the McCoubrey team have placed the posters directly in front of those of TUV candidate Jordan Doran on several lamp posts. The TUV’s vice chairman took to Twitter, politely requesting the DUP posters be moved.

“@frankmccoubrey As Vice Chairman of Belfast TUV can I ask that your posters which have been deliberately placed in front of @JORDAN_TUV's to obstruct them being seen can be shifted up the pole. Tagging in @J_Donaldson_MP to get this sorted. Rather it was resolved amicably. Thanks,” he said.

Getting to the point

The DUP has a five-point plan, the SDLP a six-point plan — but on Tuesday Retail NI launched its “New Ambition” plan for the next Assembly, which has no fewer than 29 policy priorities.

Retail NI says the election is not about the NI Protocol, but rather who is best placed to deliver real change in policy and address what, it says, are huge economic challenges.

Its president, Peter McBride, said: “Our members want to see a new Executive hit the ground running with a radical programme for Government and a plan to address the cost-of-living crisis.”

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