On the Campaign trail with Jarlath Kearney


Sinn Féin yesterday launched a head-on challenge to the dominance of the UUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson and anti-Agreement unionists in the Lagan Valley constituency.

Assembly election candidate Paul Butler was in confident mood on the canvass trail when he declared that Sinn Féin is set to be the "new voice in Lagan Valley politics".

"We want the voters of Lagan Valley to elect a Sinn Féin MLA for the area to counter the negative politics of Jeffrey Donaldson and the DUP,” he said.

"Sinn Féin is the only party that can challenge Donaldson and his anti-Agreement stance in an effective way.

"We have shown that we are the only party to stand up for the rights of nationalists and non-unionists in the Lagan Valley constituency.

"It is important that the voters of Lagan Valley do not allow people like Jeffrey Donaldson and the DUP to dominate politics in Lagan Valley for the next five years with their negative and uncompromising views," added Cllr Butler.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring South Antrim, hardline anti-Agreement unionist candidate David Burnside told a meeting at Ballyhill Orange Hall that he expects the elections to "return a majority of Unionist Assembly members who will not participate in forming an Executive with Sinn Féin/IRA when they have failed to stand down their terrorist and criminal organisation which was meant to be achieved in the Belfast Agreement by June 2000.

"If the voters return a sizeable SDLP representation in the election then I believe it is possible that unionists of all persuasions can form a cross-community administration at Stormont.

"In the unfortunate event Sinn Féin ends up as the largest nationalist party, and HMG say we can only have devolution with Sinn Féin in the Executive, then we, the Ulster Unionist majority will say to the government that is a price for devolution that is too high to pay.

"Let us be governed democratically with powerful local government like England or an administrative Assembly like Wales, but governed primarily by our sovereign parliament and government at Westminster.

"After all, that is what being a unionist is all about," said Mr Burnside.
Pressing for new measures to benefit the elderly after a spate of attacks on pensioners, the SDLP’s Patricia Lewsley called for "better protection, tougher laws and longer sentences".

"The well-being of older people is one of my main priorities.
"In my constituency I am only canvassing during daylight hours, as I am worried that a night-time call would only add to the terror and fear that many elderly people are suffering.

"Older people live like prisoners in their own homes. They have to pay for security measures themselves.

"People living on a state pension cannot afford the locks, bolts and bars that they now so desperately need.

"Elderly people need our help now. Playing at politics with sound-bites is not enough," said Cllr Lewsley.

Staying on the theme of the elderly, Sinn Féin candidate for West Belfast Michael Ferguson yesterday praised the Link Women’s Group in Andersonstown for “their sterling work on an annual basis on behalf of pensioners".

"Once again this year the group will provide support and advice specifically for pensioners at the Pensioners’ Information Day this Thursday, November 13.
"Not enough is done by the Social Security Agency to ensure that the needy, and particularly the elderly, get what they are entitled to.

"Link Women’s Group have an exceptionally skilled advice team who provide a first class service to the entire area, especially the elderly, and I am looking forward to supporting their efforts and the work of Age Concern, the NIHE, Bryson House and others who will be in attendance," said Cllr Ferguson.
Elderly matters were also the order of the day when SDLP South Antrim candidate Donovan McClelland hit out at the "culture of fear and terror that older people are living in".

"As I canvass, I have even noticed that elderly people are reluctant to answer the door.

"The SDLP is the party most committed to fighting for the rights of older people in government. Now, more than ever, older people need our help. Now, more than ever, we will fight their corner," said Cllr McClelland.

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