Brexit debate to the fore as final candidates for European election submit nomination papers
NEXT month's European elections will provide an opportunity to "send a very clear message" that Northern Ireland does not want to crash out of the EU, Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson has said.
The sitting MEP was speaking yesterday as she lodged her nomination papers for the May 23 poll.
Ms Anderson is one of nine candidates contesting three seats in the constituency that covers all of Northern Ireland.
Speaking outside the Electoral Office in Belfast, she said her campaign had officially begun.
"Twenty-nine days to go for the people here in the north of Ireland to send a very clear message back to the EU that they don't want to crash out of the EU or be dragged out of the EU," she said.
"I am honoured to have been selected by Sinn Féin to stand in front of the people and hopefully get re-elected because, without doubt, without team Sinn Féin in the European Parliament, the Good Friday Agreement, in all of its parts, and Ireland would not have been one of the three priorities."
Others who submitted their nomination papers yesterday were SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, his TUV counterpart Jim Allister, and Green leader Claire Bailey.
Nominations for the election closed yesterday afternoon, four weeks ahead of polling day.
Mr Allister previously served as an MEP from 2004 to 2007, initially for the DUP before leaving to form Traditional Unionist Voice.
The ardent Brexiteer blasted the delay to Brexit, three years after the 2016 referendum, and described the UK electing MEPs in 2019 as "shameful".
"We have arrived at this travesty and wider betrayal of Brexit by reason of the combination of the abysmal weakness of Mrs (Theresa) May and the bully boy tactics of the EU," he said after submitting his nomination papers," he said.
"Brexiteers must fight this election to win– that is why I have nominated to be a candidate in these elections."
Ms Bailey said the election gave people an opportunity to "remind the UK Government that we voted to remain".
"It gives us a chance to say we want to remain part of the European Union, we want to secure our rights and economic future and we want to reject the politics of hate and division," she said.
Other confirmed candidates are the DUP's Diane Dodds, Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy, Ukip's Robert Hill, Alliance leader Naomi Long, and former Women's Coalition founder and one-time Stormont deputy speaker, Jane Morrice who is standing as a pro-EU independent.