DUP says nothing unusual over delay in naming six Westminster candidates

Jim Wells has warned that he may quit the DUP if it fails to veto same-sex marriage. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

The DUP has insisted there is nothing controversial about its delay in revealing candidates for six Westminster constituencies.

Arlene Foster's party announced the names of 11 of its June 8 candidates on Monday but has yet to say who will contest South Down, West Tyrone, South Belfast, Newry and Armagh, North Down and Mid Ulster.

The DUP has unilaterally stepped aside in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The party said it was in the process of finalising the selection of candidates in the remainder of the constituencies.

Notably, in two of those constituencies where the DUP has yet to name its runner, the party's sitting MLAs have voiced concern about potential concessions on same-sex marriage.

In recent weeks both South Down MLA Jim Wells and his West Tyrone counterpart Tom Buchanan have threatened to quit the DUP if it removes its Stormont veto on same-sex marriage. Mr Wells has been the DUP's South Down Westminster candidate on the past four occasions, while Mr Buchanan has stood in West Tyrone in the past three general elections.

"Peter will not marry Paul in Northern Ireland," Mr Wells told the Belfast Telegraph last month. In an interview with the Ulster Herald, Mr Buchanan said he would give deep consideration to his future in the party if it failed to veto same-sex marriage with petition of concern.

A majority of MLAs endorsed the introduction of marriage for same-sex couples in November 2015 but the DUP used a petition of concern to block a change in legislation that would have brought the law into line with Britain.

A party spokeswoman said the names of the remaining candidates would be announced in the "next wee while".

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