SDLP candidate Justin McNulty has been accused of “running from the electorate” after refusing to take part in a live debate.
The debate, which had been organised by Destination Newry and was due to be broadcast live, has now been cancelled.
Sinn Fein candidate Mickey Brady’s Election Agent, Conor Murphy, said he was disappointed but not surprised.
“This is a cowardly move sadly typical of the current attitude within the SDLP,” the former Newry and Armagh MP said.
“Their party leader was afraid to face Máirtín Ó Muilleoir in South Belfast and now their candidate in Newry and Armagh is running from Mickey Brady, and worse, running from the electorate.
“I totally reject any excuses he is making about not being available. Destination Newry first came to all the candidates about this debate over a month ago, reporting that there had been huge public interest in holding one.
“We told them we’d be happy to take part anytime, anywhere and have changed our schedules several times to accommodate it.
“Since then Justin McNulty and his SDLP team have scuppered every attempt to hold this debate.
“In fact, the debate was originally supposed to take place tonight (Tuesday) before being moved to Thursday to accommodate the SDLP before finally being cancelled.
“This whole debacle not only displays the lack of faith the SDLP have in their own candidate but the contempt they have for the electorate of Newry and Armagh.
“A public debate is democracy in its purest form, allowing the electorate to bring their concerns and questions to the candidates.
“The actions of the SDLP over the past few weeks have laid bare the party’s cowardice and hypocrisy.
“Their leader refused to debate in South Belfast, their MLAs refused to show up for the vote on Marriage Equality, their councillors refused to show up for the vote on Raymond McCreesh Park and now Justin McNulty is hiding from the electorate.
“His whole campaign has been based around going to Westminster and speaking for the people of Newry and Armagh; I wonder how he intends to do that when he can’t even speak to the people of Newry and Armagh.”
An SDLP spokesman told Armagh I tonight that at no point did Justin McNulty or the party agree to the time, or date, and refute Destination Newry’s claim to the contrary.
However, the SDLP claim they did offer to conduct the debate next Tuesday night but say that proposal was rejected on the grounds that Danny Kennedy and Mickey Brady were unavailable.
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