Northern Ireland news

SDLP election worker 'verbally abused and pushed off ladder'

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan has condemned an attack on a party election worker in Omagh. Picture by Mal McCann

AN SDLP election worker has been verbally abused and assaulted while putting up posters in Co Tyrone, an MLA has said.

The man, who is in his fifties, was putting up a poster for SDLP Westminster candidate Daniel McCrossan in Omagh early yesterday morning when he was approached by three men.

Mr McCrossan, an MLA for West Tyrone, said the man, who is employed to put up the party's election posters, was pushed off his ladder. The men then stole the poster and ladder and threw them in the nearby River Strule.

Mr McCrossan, who is his party's candidate in next month's West Tyrone by-election, described the assault as "an attack on democracy".

"I would like to meet these people and ask them what they thought they would achieve by this," he said.

"Three men hurled hateful sectarian abuse about the SDLP and about me. The man was at the top of the ladder and they pushed him off, stole the poster and ladder and threw them into the river."

He said he was "disgusted and furious" that a party worker had been assaulted.

"Thankfully he wasn't hurt but he could have suffered serious injuries," he said.

He added: "If anyone witnessed this last night please come forward to police.

"Nothing and certainly no idiot will prevent me and my party representing the people of West Tyrone."

A police spokeswoman said officers are continuing to investigate.

"At around 2.50am this morning police in Omagh received a report that a male had been verbally abused in the Campsie Road area by three men," she said.

"A ladder was also taken from the male and dumped it in the Strule river.

"A suspect was identified by police and has been cautioned for criminal damage."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin West Tyrone candidate Órfhlaith Begley said many of her posters were stolen and damaged in Omagh town centre on Saturday night.

"This is a disgraceful attack on democracy but we won’t be deterred," she said.

"Election posters from all parties should be treated with respect."

The West Tyrone by-election will be held on May 3.

The by-election was called following the resignation of former Sinn Féín MP Barry McElduff in January. Mr McElduff stood down amid criticism of a video he tweeted in early January. The politician posted a video of himself with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the 1976 Kingsmill massacre in which 10 Protestant workers died.

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