Arlene Foster has challenged Sinn Fein to condemn IRA murder bids against both her late father and the DUP’s deputy leader.
The DUP leader singled out the two Troubles incidents as she suggested the republican party was being selective on what it will condemn.
Her remarks come amid a row about loyalist banners that have appeared in the North Belfast constituency making a series of allegations against Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane and his family, including his solicitor father Pat, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict.
Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald had called on unionist leaders to condemn what she described as a “sinister and dangerous campaign of threats and intimidation” against the Finucanes.
At the launch of a DUP policy paper on Tuesday morning, deputy leader Nigel Dodds condemned the posters, making clear his party would have nothing to do with anything that demonised or smeared rival candidates.
Ms Foster followed-up those remarks with her challenge to Sinn Fein.
“It is a bit rich to listen to people talking about violence and hate crimes and what have you,” she said.
“We need complete clarity from Sinn Fein around some of the most violent acts that took place here in Northern Ireland. What do they have to say about the attempted murder of my father for example, what do they have to say about the attempted murder of Nigel Dodds?
“We need to hear from them what they have to say about that.”
Ms Foster’s policeman father John Kelly was badly injured when the IRA shot him in the head at the family farm in Co Fermanagh in 1979.
In 1996, a policeman was shot and injured when the IRA tried to murder Mr Dodds as he visited his seriously ill son in the Royal Children’s Hospital in west Belfast.
Mr Dodds also referenced the hospital assassination bid when asked about the posters at the launch of the DUP’s 12-point plan titled Let’s Get NI Moving Again.
The 12 priorities outlined in the paper are restoring devolution at Stormont; health; education; economy; welfare reform mitigations; protecting the unborn; environment; animal welfare; housing; law and order; Assembly reform; and celebrating the 2021 centenary on Northern Ireland.
On the banner issue, Mr Dodds said: “The banners and posters have nothing to do with our campaign. We knew nothing about them and I want to make it very, very clear that anything that is personally abusive or offensive, inaccurate and smearing of any candidate in any political party is to be condemned and is nothing to do with a proper democratic debate or a democratic election, so I want to make that very, very clear indeed.
“Our party has been crystal clear on these issues, on violence and on the use of violence. And the challenge to all parties is the same – we see some vile internet trolling of victims, of unionists politicians as well, and that’s to be condemned also.”
Mr Dodds added: “But there’s also a challenge to Sinn Fein in this election; They can’t be selective here. We condemn every act of violence from every paramilitary organisation – do they do that, will they do that? Will they condemn the IRA who went into a hospital 20 years ago and shot a police officer guarding me? Do they condemn it? No, they don’t.
“Will they stop eulogising the violent perpetrators of the IRA – it’s time they were challenged on some of this stuff and not be selective about it.
“Our position is clear – we will have no part in anything that demonises or has any personal offence or personal abuse against any candidate, it’s not part of our campaign and we will not be part of it.”
Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey said it was “transparent distraction” by the DUP in attempting to talk about anything rather than the party’s “reckless” Brexit agenda.
“The banners erected by hooded loyalists targeting John Finucane and his family are clearly aimed to help the DUP candidate.
“All parties should unite in calling for these banners to be removed and on those responsible to desist.”
He said Sinn Fein was not interested in re-fighting the battles of the past.
“Our party has had members killed, including our vice-president Maire Drumm who was murdered in her hospital bed.
“There is a responsibility on all political leaders to engage fully in the efforts to build the peace and the process of reconciliation and healing by implementing the mechanisms agreed at Stormont House to support victims and their rights to truth and justice.”