Northern Ireland

North’s parties welcome start of general election race

Leaders have pitched their stalls ahead of July 4 polling day

First Minister Michelle O’Neill called for the Legacy Act to be repealed
Sinn Féin's Michelle O’Neill. PICTURE: OLIVER MCVEIGH (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

A general election is a chance for voters in the north to send a “clear message” to London about underfunding of public services and for a return to positivity in politics, parties in the north have said.

Leaders spoke out after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that an election would be held on July 4.

Sinn Féin vice-president and Stormont first minister Michelle O’Neill said Mr Sunak’s Conservative government had been a “disaster”, adding they were “bad for the economy, bad for public services and bad for workers and families as the cost of living soared putting them under pressure”.

“The Westminster election on 4th July is an opportunity to send a clear message,” she said.

“That you want decisions about your life and your future to be made here in Ireland, and not in London. You can vote for a future where our children have the best opportunities to build their lives here at home.

“A shared future, where all our people and communities work together as one.”

DUP interim leader Gavin Robinson has urged the outgoing Northern Ireland Secretary to honour ‘outstanding commitments’
DUP leader Gavin Robinson. (Jonathan McCambridge/PA)

DUP leader Gavin Robinson said Mr Sunak’s government was “fast running out of steam”.

“The general election will provide the people of Northern Ireland with a clear choice as to who they think is best placed to represent them and deliver the best outcomes for them,” he said.

Referring to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, the East Belfast MP said the next UK government “will have much more to do to ensure Northern Ireland benefits as an integral part of the United Kingdom rather than remaining subject to European laws in some areas of our daily lives”.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the election “has been a long time coming and finally presents a real opportunity for people to remove the failing Conservative government from power”.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY

She said her party’s candidates were now the “main challenger” to the DUP in several constituencies as voters were increasingly focussed on “health, education, the economy, the cost of living and the environment”.

“Our positivity, progressiveness, responsibility and record of delivery is what we will be standing on, and I am confident people will back us on that platform,” she said.

Foyle MP and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood voters would “now have an opportunity to cast their verdict on not just the last five years of chaos, pain and turmoil, but the last 14 years of government that has left communities across Northern Ireland far worse off”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood
SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood.

“The mission of the next six weeks could not be clearer - it’s time to remove the Tory government from power and install a new administration that understands the value of investing in public services and communities that have been left behind,” he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: “Here in Northern Ireland, we have a clear choice, carry on as before or set the conditions for a change. We need less pessimism, negativity and isolationism, less angry voices, less confrontation.

“We need representatives in Westminster who can stand up and make the case for Northern Ireland, its people, its economy, its future.”