Greens meet Sinn Féin and UUP amid attempts to form anti-Brexit electoral pact

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Green Party leader Steven Agnew have both called for an anti-Brexit electoral pact
John Monaghan

THE GREEN Party has held a meeting with Sinn Féin as formal talks began about the prospect of forming an anti-Brexit electoral pact.

The Greens, who also met with an Ulster Unionist delegation including new leader Robin Swann yesterday, have previously said that any pact must go "beyond the boundaries of nationalism and unionism".

Although the Ulster Unionists supported a remain vote in the EU referendum, they are holding talks with the DUP about the possibility of fielding unionist unity candidates and have already withdrawn from three constituencies.

The Greens said last night that they would not be making any comment on the outcomes of the meetings with Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionists until after they had completed talks with other pro-remain parties.

The party said it was hoping to hold separate discussions with the SDLP and Alliance Party today, although it is unclear if the meetings will definitely go ahead, with Alliance resolutely opposed to any electoral pact.

Alliance declined to comment last night on whether they would attend a meeting with the Greens but re-iterated their opposition to any deal between parties.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry told the BBC that the forming of a coalition involving Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Greens was "in essence a nationalist reaction to a unionist pact".

Mr Farry expressed concerns that gains made by Sinn Féin arising out of any anti-Brexit electoral pact could be "used" by the party to "seek a border poll".

Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw said that the party would not be standing aside in the constituency held by SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell since 2005.

She said: "South Belfast is the most diverse and inclusive constituency in Northern Ireland. It is a liberal, progressive place with deep cross-community relationships. But instead, some want to turn this election into a sectarian headcount with talk about pacts."

Writing in The Irish News on Monday, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was in favour of withdrawing his party's contender from East Belfast, along with Sinn Féin and the Greens, to give Alliance's Naomi Long a clear run in the June 8 Westminster poll.

Sinn Féin said last week that it was interested in forming a "progressive alliance" to fight against a hard Brexit.

However, Green Party leader Steven Agnew said yesterday he "wouldn't accept" an electoral alliance if he "thought it was some sort of nationalist pact".

Asked whether Sinn Féin abstaining from taking seats at Westminster was a "deal breaker" for any pact, Mr Agnew replied: "I remain to be convinced if it could be good in terms of challenging Brexit."

Meanwhile, People Before Profit West Belfast MLA Gerry Carroll said his party, which supported a Leave vote in the EU referendum, "will not be entering into a pact with any of the big parties".

"SF and the SDLP are desperate to enter into a pact. And they want the Green Party to be the third wheel in the relationship, to provide them cover," he said.

"I admire Steven Agnew, and have a lot in common with the Green Party. However, I think it would be a mistake for them to enter into this pact."

He added: "It is the job of parties like PBP or the Greens to hold the big parties to account. We cannot do that whilst entering into electoral arrangements with them."

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