Northern Ireland news

Criticism for Sinn Féin over 'fake news' posting of Colum Eastwood's speech

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood speak at the Fianna Fáil ard fheis. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

SINN Féin is facing accusations of adopting "Trumpian-style tactics" for posting a heavily edited version of Colum Eastwood's speech to the Fianna Fáil ard fheis on social media.

During the address, which came weeks after the SDLP announced formal ties with Micheál Martin's party, Mr Eastwood said there would be a "special place reserved in hell" for those who called for a border poll without planning.

The phrase was deliberately chosen to echo recent remarks by Donald Tusk, where the European Council president castigated Leave campaigners who had failed to plan for Brexit.

Mr Eastwood's speech stressed that it was ill-advised to promote a unity referendum without proper planning.

Sinn Féin's video of Colum Eastwood

However, in the video posted by Sinn Féin, the context of the "special place reserved in hell" remark is absent before the crowd is seen to give the Foyle MLA a standing ovation.

In the unedited version of the speech, Mr Eastwood says a border poll will only succeed with if "definition and detail" of a new Ireland is provided beforehand.

"Let me say this clearly – no referendum should be called until that work is done," he said.

"There will be a special place reserved in hell for those who call for a border poll in Ireland with no plan or no idea how to actually win it."

Full quote from Colum Eastwood

Last night, the SDLP leader told The Irish News: "These Trumpian-style tactics are nothing new from Sinn Féin.

"If Sinn Féin want to continue to make fake news their modus operandi then that is a matter for them, but to continue to treat the electorate as fools for their own political gain shows that they are incapable of putting people before party."

A spokesman for Fianna Fáil, which yesterday in response posted on Twitter its own heavily edited video of Mary Lou McDonald's ard fheis speech, said Mr Eastwood's speech had "clearly struck a nerve with Sinn Féin".

"But that doesn’t excuse them using ... a doctored video, to try and mislead voters about what he said," the spokesman said.

“Sinn Féin clearly take voters in the north for granted and feel that they can say or do anything they want but it’s still a surprise to see them being so blatant in their lies.”

A Sinn Féin spokesman said Mr Eastwood's criticism was "designed to distract from his serious gaffe in dismissing nationalist aspirations for Irish reunification".

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