Eastwood election bus highlights EU payments to Northern Ireland
An anti-Brexit election battle bus highlighting the millions of euros transferred from Europe to Northern Ireland to support peace has been launched.
Nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is running in this month’s European Parliament poll.
He chose the Irish border near Londonderry to unveil a newly-liveried bus “debunking” the claims of Brexiteers before the referendum.
Mr Eastwood said: “People here believe in open borders, they believe in an open economy, they believe in open societies and they are totally against the message the DUP are sending.
“They are trying to misrepresent us in a kind of a pro-Brexit position.
“Well we don’t accept that and I think this is the opportunity for people in Northern Ireland to send the most positive, anti-Brexit, pro-European candidate to the European Parliament to stop people misrepresenting what we stand for because we are a pro-European people and we intend to stay that way.”
The message painted on the bus characterised the May 23 election as a People’s Vote in an echo of the second referendum demand of some Remainers.
It said the EU sent 500 million euros a year to Northern Ireland in peace process funding and other initiatives.
The slogan on the vehicle urged voters to “take back control” of their futures in another re-appropriation of Brexiteer arguments.
Mr Eastwood said he intended to send a message that people in Northern Ireland would not be dragged out of the EU against their will.
The Foyle Assembly member said it was a positive message about the bloc’s benefits for peace and the economy.
Sinn Fein and the DUP are projected to take two of the three seats in Northern Ireland.
Mr Eastwood faces a three-way battle for the third place with the Ulster Unionists’ Danny Kennedy and the leader of the resurgent Alliance Party, Naomi Long.
Her centralist party’s council representation grew dramatically in this month’s vote.
Mr Eastwood is also campaigning for unionist and nationalist votes.
He urged unionists to give him their number one vote to signal that they were not prepared to be dragged out of Europe against their wishes.
“The DUP don’t represent every unionist in Northern Ireland.”
The DUP is pro-Brexit and frustrated Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempts to secure a withdrawal deal.
It fears the border backstop insurance policy keeping Northern Ireland trade regulations aligned with the Republic of Ireland could threaten the integrity of the UK.
Mr Eastwood said Northern Ireland should send two Remain voices to the European Parliament.
“This is our people’s vote. This is our chance to send a clear, unambiguous, pro-European, anti-Brexit message to London and Europe.
“That is what we can do on the 23rd of May.
“I think we will do it and I look forward to the campaign.”