Green Party throws weight behind SDLP in South Belfast
The Green Party has become the latest in Northern Ireland to announce that it will stand aside in a constituency to back another party’s candidate in the General Election.
The Greens’ South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey said she will not be a candidate in the December 12 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% 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 Fein 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.
On Monday, Sinn Fein 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 Fein’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 Fein candidate John Finucane.