The BBC has defended its selection process for a Radio Foyle election debate in Strabane on Wednesday after two candidates who were not included on the panel took to social media to complain.
Both People Before Profit representative Carol Gallagher and independent Paul Gallagher bemoaned the fact that all candidates are equal, but some are more equal than others.
On the defensive
The debate featured Tom Buchanan (DUP), Maoliosa McHugh (Sinn Fein), Daniel McCrossan ( SDLP), Ian Marshall (UUP) and Stephen Donnelly (Alliance) of the 14 candidates contesting the five seats in West Tyrone.
It’s always been a bone of contention that some of the lesser-known names standing for election don’t get as much coverage as those from the bigger parties.
“They have refused to allow me to participate in this debate, stating they cant let everyone in,” Mr Gallagher, a locally elected councillor, said.
“However, some of the candidates that they have allow [sic] in have no mandate in Strabane town. I have a strong mandate to represent the people of this area and further afield and they have refused to allow me to represent you.”
People Before Profit went a step further and pointed out that candidate Carol Gallagher’s absence from the debate meant the panel was male dominated.
“Sure, who’d want to hear from a single mother who has lived in Strabane all her life?” the party questioned. “No issues that matter to the women of West Tyrone? Here’s five men instead.”
The BBC said it had complied with Ofcom regulations over election coverage.
“Relative levels of coverage for different parties and candidates are based, in line with Ofcom’s rules and the BBC’s own Election Guidelines, on evidence of past and current levels of electoral support,” the broadcaster responded.
“We take our responsibilities in this area extremely seriously and know the value that audiences attach to the BBC’s fair reporting of the Assembly election.”
In Newry and Armagh suspicious goings-on with Royal Mail deliveries of election leaflets have apparently been uncovered by the TUV, with party leader Jim Allister claiming “an orchestrated attempt to disrupt our election campaign” such is the “widespread” nature of the problem.
“Royal Mail have been unable to provide a credible explanation thus far, so we are calling on them to come clean on why TUV literature has not been delivered to a large number of homes,” the party leader said.
The issue, said the party, is hitting the campaign of candidate Keith Ratcliffe, who added: “This literature is paid for by the relevant party and is a key part of anyone’s campaign, as it allows candidates to reach every elector in the area directly.
“It has become clear to me that there is a systemic issue when it comes to the delivery of TUV postal literature in Newry and Armagh. We know of addresses which have been missed in Armagh, Markethill, Tandragee, Lauelvale [sic], Bessbrook, Loughall [sic], Ardress, Mountnoris [sic] and other areas.
“Royal Mail have promised to redeliver to the addresses we have provided them with, but I believe the issue may impact on thousands of homes, something which could materially impact the result of the election in Newry and Armagh.”
Rest assured, your TUV leaflet will be arriving.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said they had received a complaint from the TUV about some residents telling the party they had not received their election mail in Newry and Armagh.
"We take our role delivering election mail extremely seriously,” continued the Royal Mail. “Having thoroughly investigated, we have found no evidence to suggest that this election mail was not delivered as planned to the correct addresses.
"TUV has provided us with a small number of specific addresses for residents who report not having received this election mail and we have re-delivered it to these addresses.”
That’s not my name
Meanwhile, a leather jacket fit for a pop star added a splash of colour at the DUP manifesto launch in Portadown on Thursday.
And to show it off in style the party’s East Belfast candidate, Joanne Bunting, might have been tempted to take to the microphone and belt out the 2008 Ting Tings hit song That’s Not My Name.
Debate raged over whether the statement jacket was ‘pinky purple’ or ‘purply pink’. It certainly made an impression.
“My name’s not Jolene,” said Joanne, after she had been misnamed in The News Letter, determined not to be confused with controversial former independent unionist councillor Jolene Bunting. She surveyed the room to seek out someone from that publication to remind them.
And on the subject of names, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was briefly rechristened ‘Gerry’ when fielding a question from the media at the launch event.
The slip of the tongue from The Irish News reporter John Manley caused much mirth, with Sir Jeffrey quipping back that Rev Ian Paisley had always insisted in calling him ‘Jeremy’ in his younger days.
“I’m not sure which one is preferable,” he said, “but today, Jeffrey’s fine.”