Sinn Fein targets ‘Brexit architect’ Dodds as it aims to increase number of MPs

Michelle O’Neill has said Sinn Fein is hoping to unseat “an architect of Brexit” – DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds – as it aims to increase its number of MPs from seven to eight.

The Sinn Fein vice president said the December 12 general election will be about maximising the return of pro-Remain candidates.

“We will stand in our seven constituencies in which we currently hold seats and we will stand in North Belfast to win that seat,” she said.

Standing alongside the party’s North Belfast candidate John Finucane, Ms O’Neill made clear their intention to target the constituency’s MP Mr Dodds.

“We believe there is a real opportunity in North Belfast to oust someone who has been architect of Brexit, someone who has actively worked against the interests of people who live here on this island, and John Finucane can provide local representation but also will reflect Ireland’s interests in all of this mess,” she said.

Asked about her party’s suggested pro-Remain electoral pact with other parties opposed to Brexit, Ms O’Neill said: “I have had conversations with the other party leaders in terms of how we can maximise the pro-Remain candidates returned in this election, but I suppose it will be for the electorate to pass judgment on that.

“As I stand here there hasn’t been a positive response from the other party leaders.”

Earlier the incoming leader of the Ulster Unionist Party came under pressure on his stance over a unionist electoral pact.

Steve Aiken (PA)

Steve Aiken has said his party will stand candidates in all 18 Westminster seats.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the stance will mean a “unionist dogfight”, and warned this could risk unionists losing seats to Sinn Fein.

Unionist rivals the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) said agreed candidates in certain constituencies is a “no-brainer”.

A unionist pact saw Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott win the Fermanagh South Tyrone Westminster seat in 2015, but Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew won the seat back in 2017.

The DUP is understood to be keen to pursue the arrangement in North Belfast where Mr Dodds’ narrow majority is expected to come under pressure from Mr Finucane.

Mr Aiken said his party will run candidates in all 18 constituencies, “because we cannot in all right turn round and say to the people of Northern Ireland: ‘Vote for a pact with the DUP, support the DUP – the party who put a border down the Irish Sea'”.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Donaldson told the BBC on Wednesday: “I just don’t understand where Steve Aiken is coming from, that he proposes we have a unionist dogfight in the middle of the most important election in decades.

“I don’t think they stand a chance of winning the seat in the constituencies where they will split the vote.”

Later, a TUV spokesman said: “As TUV determines its position over the coming days regarding the upcoming general election, one thing is clear to us – the folly of gifting seats to Sinn Fein. Any party that sets such a course is not serving the Union.”

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