Green Party steps aside in South Belfast to boost SDLP chances

Party leader says she wants to see a pro-Remain MP in the seat

Sinn Féin’s North Belfast candidate   John Finucane campaigning in the constituency where the UUP has stepped aside to give the DUP’s Nigel Dodds a better chance of winning. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Sinn Féin’s North Belfast candidate John Finucane campaigning in the constituency where the UUP has stepped aside to give the DUP’s Nigel Dodds a better chance of winning. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

The Greens have become the latest political grouping in Northern Ireland to announce that they will stand aside in a constituency to back another party’s candidate in the general election.

The Green Party’s South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey said she would not be a candidate in the December 12th poll, and instead urged her supporters to back the SDLP’s Claire Hanna.

South Belfast is expected to be a close race between Ms Hanna and DUP incumbent Emma Little-Pengelly.

Ms Bailey, who leads the Green Party NI, said she wants to see a pro-Remain MP in the seat.

“These are extraordinary times that demand an extraordinary response,” she said.

“Almost 70 per cent of the people of South Belfast voted to remain in the EU and it is vital that a pro-Remain MP is returned.

“This is a first-past-the-post election and Claire Hanna is best placed to take the South Belfast seat from the incumbent pro-Brexit MP based on previous results.”

Ms Little-Pengelly won South Belfast at the 2017 general election, polling 13,299 votes, ahead of nearest rival Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP on 11,303.

However, she is likely to come under pressure if many of the 7,000 Sinn Féin votes and 2,000 Green Party votes at the 2017 poll are lent to Ms Hanna.

The move is the latest in a series of announcements by parties lending support to rivals.

Ms Hanna welcomed the Green Party announcement.

She posted on Twitter: “Genuinely thrilled to have backing of the Green Party in this election. I & so many others greatly admire Clare Bailey and her team for their practical, planet-centred & post-sectarian politics. This election is about Brexit and we’re fighting hard to be South Belfast’s Remain voice.”

On Monday, Sinn Féin said it would not run candidates in South Belfast, East Belfast and North Down.

It will instead back pro-Remain parties, including the SDLP in South Belfast, Alliance in East Belfast, and independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon in North Down.

The SDLP said it will not run candidates in North Belfast, East Belfast or North Down, and asked its supporters to vote for other pro-Remain candidates.

Meanwhile, unionists are also preparing to stand aside to support rivals.

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster announced that her party will not run in Fermanagh South Tyrone, and will instead back former Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott in a bid to unseat Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew.

Mr Elliott has declined to say whether he intends to run.

Incoming Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken appeared to make a U-turn on the issue over the weekend.

He had previously indicated that his party will stand in all 18 constituencies in the region.

However, on Sunday he announced that the UUP will not field a candidate in North Belfast, where DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds is expected to come under pressure from Sinn Féin candidate John Finucane. - PA