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Sinn Féin's Michelle Gilderdew criticised over Arlene Foster comments

Michelle Gildernew (right) pictured with fellow election candidates Sean Lynch and Jemma Dolan at the Fermanagh South Tyrone launch in Enniskillen
Gareth McKeown

A former Sinn Féin agriculture minister has been criticised for telling party supporters in Fermanagh they will "put manners on Arlene Foster".

It has been reported that Michelle Gildernew made the comments at the Fermanagh South Tyrone election launch on Tuesday evening in Enniskillen and they have not been denied by Sinn Féin.

In the same address the senior Sinn Féin representative is also said to have told the packed meeting of supporters that new northern leader Michelle O'Neill would "take no shite" and was "no dozer".

Mrs Gildernew held the position of Agriculture Minister from 2007 to 2011 and previously served as MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone from 2001 up to 2015. An outgoing MLA she is hoping to be re-elected next month.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Mrs Gildernew's comments highlighted the contradiction between the party’s public statements and what they are telling republicans behind closed doors.

"There is a glaring contradiction between Sinn Féin’s public statements and what they tell party supporters when they believe comments will not be reported," the East Antrim MP said.

"The public statements on equality are explained to the party faithful as being a strategy to 'break' unionists. The calls for respect in public are replaced with promises in private to 'put manners' on Arlene Foster. This seems to be the latest ‘twin-track’ approach from Sinn Féin," he added

Sinn Féin held its election launch on Tuesday night in Enniskillen, where Michelle Gildernew, Sean Lynch and Jemma Dolan were officially confirmed as the three party candidates for Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Among those in attendance was Michelle O'Neill, who also addressed the crowd.

"Equality, integrity respect. They're not just fluffy words, they're what we're about," she told supporters.

When asked to clarify what she meant be her comments on Tuesday night Mrs Gildernew directed the Irish News to the Sinn Féin press office, which did not issue a response.

Back in November 2014 Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams came under fire for describing equality as a "Trojan horse" during a party meeting in Enniskillen. Mr Adams also used the phrase "break these b*******" in answering a question at the Fermanagh event.

He later apologised for using an "offensive" term at the public meeting.

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