Northern Ireland votes ‘will matter as never before’

The DUP and Northern Ireland’s other main political parties have given a broad welcome to plans for a UK general election on December 12.

The Bill is still to be approved by the House of Lords but could become law by the end of the week.

It would be the first December election in 100 years and there would be a five-week campaign by parties up to polling day.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said it is right that the people of Northern Ireland have their say through the ballot box.

“The DUP will use this opportunity to campaign strongly to send a message that Northern Ireland is better in the Union of the United Kingdom and we cannot be separated economically from Great Britain.

“At a time of great uncertainty as to who will form the next government, how Northern Ireland votes will matter as never before.

“Unionists need their strongest team returned to so that Northern Ireland’s interests are protected in the next parliament,” she said.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said an election is a “chance to reject the DUP and the Tories, to reject Brexit and the Westminster chaos and its destructive influence on the north of Ireland”.

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) said Northern Ireland needs MPs “who will not be patsies” to a Conservative Party government.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said that Northern Ireland needs to elect Ulster Unionist MPs who will stand against Boris Johnson’s plans “that will destroy the Union”.

“This is the most important election the people of the United Kingdom have ever faced. Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU is an existential threat to the Union. It puts a border in the Irish Sea and places Northern Ireland on the window ledge of the Union,” he said.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood said a December election “will be a defining moment for Brexit and every opportunity to defend the interests of people, businesses and communities in the North must be taken”.

“For three years, the democratic decision taken by people in Northern Ireland to reject a border on this island, to maintain the free and frictionless relationship we enjoy with Europe and to sustain our fragile peace has been wilfully ignored by successive Conservative governments and by the DUP. The coming election is an opportunity to reject the politics of division and deadlock and defend our interests,” he said.

The Alliance Party leader Naomi Long MEP said her party has been preparing for an election for some time and it is best placed to unite people who voted to remain in the Brexit vote.

“This election will be mainly focused around Brexit and Alliance has always been clear there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit,” she said.

“Therefore, it will be an opportunity for people to have their say and elect MPs who want to avoid a hard border, protect the Good Friday Agreement and attend Westminster to represent their interests.

“We are uniquely placed to do that, as the Alliance surge seen in May’s local government and European elections showed the party could reach across all sections of our community and gain support from everywhere.”

Ms Long said people who vote for Alliance candidates “can increase the representation of progressive, pro-Remain MPs and articulate that voice loudly at Westminster”.

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