The SDLP’s Justin McNulty has issued a fresh challenge to Sinn Fein’s Mickey Brady to come and debate him next Tuesday evening in advance of the Polling Day next Thursday.
Mr McNulty explained: “I and other candidates were invited to take part in a pre-election debate hosted by Destination Newry a number of weeks ago and we agreed to take part on the basis that the event was impartial and had an experienced independent chair.
“We heard nothing until Monday night when we were advised that the date had been fixed for Thursday evening. We were asked to confirm on Tuesday our availability but we explained that this date did not suit as I have other commitments. I am hosting a major cross border event on Thursday aimed at bring jobs and investment to Newry and Armagh. However I offered an alternative date with the same conditions, next Tuesday, just 48 hours before polling but others refused.
“I am deeply disappointed that Destination Newry called off the debate and even more disappointed that they failed to release the full facts as to why they cancelled the debate. In case there is any doubt, I am up for the debate and always have been, I am running from no one, I’ve never ran from anything in my life. I’m running FOR the people of Newry and Armagh.
“The debate organisers may have consulted with other candidates about a selection of dates, but they didn’t consult me or my team. I think it is completely disingenuous of them to suggest otherwise. I am confident in my campaign and the message I am taking to the door steps. Whilst others have sought to bring negativity to this campaign I have concentrated on offering the people of Newry and Armagh something positive and something different.”
He added: “The people are telling me time and time again on the door step they want a real MP, they want an MP who will go to Westminster and take their seat. They want an MP who will fight for them on the issues which matter. The momentum in this campaign, I believe is building strongly behind me and other candidates and their teams are fully aware of this and trying to create distractions. I won’t be distracted; I will be there for the people of Newry and Armagh.”
Now Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy has said the SDLP are trying to spin their way out of running from a public debate.
Mr Murphy, Mickey Brady’s election agent, said: “The SDLP and Justin McNulty are clearly attempting to play games with the electorate of Newry and Armagh.
“First they refused to take part in a hustings event organised by Destination Newry, offering excuses; now they are claiming that they offered another time and date but that Mickey Brady was unavailable.
“That is nonsense. We had already changed schedules several times to accommodate the SDLP and when they refused a final date no other proposal was put to us.
“The SDLP must have known that to withdraw from this debate would cause questions to be asked about the ability of their candidate. It is telling that they felt this was the less damaging alternative to allowing their candidate to speak in a live debate.
“Justin McNulty may talk a big game but when it comes down to debating the real politics in front of the electorate he is little more than a hurler on the ditch.”
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