Marianne Cleary is standing for Sinn Féin in the Rowallene District Electoral Area ward.
During her election launch in the Market Square in Ballynahinch, she faced an angry group of around sixty loyalists who opposed her presence in Ballynahinch and that of her Sinn Féin Colleagues. Police were in attendance to ensure a peaceful event.
At 4pm on Sunday afternoon, the loyalists had already gather in numbers before a single Sinn Féin supporter was in sight. It was a cold, wet and windy day and after a short period, Sinn Féin supporters and officials had assembled across the Market Square facing the angry loyalists.
South Down MP Chris Hazzard introduced the launch and was met with a barrage of shouts, whistles, personal alarms as he spoke over the microphone.
Sinn Féin Message of Rights, Equality & Irish Unity Won’t Be Silenced Says Hazzard.
Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hazzard has criticised the DUP’s Jim Wells MLA for attempting to shout down a Sinn Féin election rally in Ballynahinch.
He said: “A crowd of loyalist protestors – including Mr Wells and other DUP & UUP elected representatives – travelled from as far away as Lisburn & Castlereagh to shout abuse at Sinn Féin representatives and members of the local community in Ballynahinch.
“Sinn Féin’s Marianne Cleary is aiming to make history in this year’s local government election by becoming the first ever woman elected to Newry Mourne & Down Council for the Rowallane area.
“With that in mind, Sinn Féin gathered in Ballynahinch this afternoon to hold an election rally before canvassing local residents in the Co Down market-town.
“Despite the barrage of sectarian abuse and personal vitriol that was aimed at Marianne, it was encouraging to receive such a warm reception from the local community on our canvass where our message of equality, rights and Irish unity was well received.
“Sinn Féin will not be deterred by Jim Wells or anyone else from bringing that message to the electorate throughout Co Down.”
Speaking after the protest, Jim Wells MLA in the loyalist camp, said: “
Matt Carthy, Irish Sinn Féin MEP said: “Ballynahinch is very much a Unionist community, around three quarters are Unionsist, and I don’t believe that Sinn Féin have any consent for this meeting on the Square.
Sinn Féin should have held this election rally in Darragh Cross of somewhere where they have supporters. It would have been a different issue had Unionists held such a rally in a strongly republican area.”
Speaking on the Nolan Show on Monday morning, Jim Wells refuted that some of the Loyalists present had covered their faces up with hoods and scarves.
Carthy Congratulates Cleary
Matt Carthy, ROI MEP, in speaking at the rally said that he was delighted that Marianne Cleary was standing for Sinn Féin in the Roawlane DEA.
He said: “I think Marianne will make an excellent councillor fighting for the rights of everyone in this constituency. It is heartening that she is hoping to increase the number of women Sinn Féin councillors in Newry Mourne and Down District Council.
“Marianne has a great team in support led in South Down by their MP Chris Hazzard. Sinn Féin are building their vote across the South Down area and will continue to do in Rowallane. I wish her every success.”
The rally ended peacefully and everyone dispersed then without incident thanks to the intervention of the PSNI at the event.