Sinn Féin and Alliance reject anti-Brexit pact in North Antrim
BOTH Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party appear to have rejected calls for an anti-Brexit alliance to challenge Ian Paisley should a by-election be called in North Antrim.
The DUP MP received an unprecedented suspension of 30 sitting days from the House of Commons on Monday for failing to register two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government, for which he later lobbied.
Over the coming days, up to 10 venues will be earmarked across Mr Paisley's constituency where those on the electoral register are entitled to sign a petition calling for his resignation.
If 10 per cent of the eligible electorate - around 7,500 people - put down their names, then Mr Paisley must step aside ahead of a by-election.
The DUP has not yet said if it would endorse the son of the former party leader, who has indicated he would defend his seat. He is currently suspended by the party "pending further investigation into his conduct".
However, a North Antrim source has said that MLA Mervyn Storey has already ruled out standing against his colleague should the party not select Mr Paisley.
The Irish News revealed yesterday that the SDLP had written to other Stormont party leaders calling for a single anti-Brexit candidate to stand in any by-election.
An Alliance Party spokesman said last night: "No by-election has been called and therefore talk of a unity candidate is premature.
"However, Alliance's position on pacts is well-known and we have been successful in challenging financial scandals in a Westminster election before.
"If any election takes place, Alliance would intend to campaign on our own positive, progressive, pro-European platform.
"If anyone seeking a unity candidate was serious about the intention, they would have surely contacted other parties first instead of going directly to the media".
Sinn Féin did not publicly comment but a source said talk of a pact only "distracts from the issue" of Mr Paisley's paid advocacy on behalf of the controversial Sri Lankan regime.
"Talk of pacts only takes the focus of that very real issue and is not even relevant at a time when a by-election hasn't even been called."
In his letter to party leaders, SDLP Colum Eastwood had said the north needed a remain voice at Westminster that "will vote to stop borders in Ireland and economic devastation".