Northern Ireland news

DUP say Jim Allister's stance on Sinn Féin first minister will 'provide platform for border poll'

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has rejected claims by TUV rival Jim Allister that his party's appeal for votes to keep Sinn Féin out is a `false card'

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has rejected claims by TUV rival Jim Allister that his party's appeal for votes to "keep Sinn Féin out" is a "false card".

Mr Allister told The Irish News the DUP "do this on the pretence that there's actually a distinction between the first and deputy first minister when there isn't - one can't write a letter without the other".

He said if the party's objection to a Sinn Féin first minister is "more than a phoney concern or an electoral gaming concern" it should refuse to nominate for the the first or deputy first minister's role after the election, claiming the DUP believes the devolved institutions and "keeping Sinn Féin in power" takes precedence over the protocol.

The TUV leader also announced his intention to run candidates in all assembly seats in that poll.

Sir Jeffrey told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme his former party colleague "is entitled to run candidates - the TUV are a legitimate political party, I respect that".

But added "it's clear that the TUV want to exploit the divisions within unionism for their own advantage".

"And we know what happens when unionism is divided and splintered.

"We know that the people who benefit from that are not actually unionists, that it is Sinn Féin and Sinn Féin will gain at unionism's expense.

"If Jim's not worried about having a Sinn Féin first minister in Northern Ireland that is his view and he's entitled to hold that view.

"I differ from him on that. I think the symbolism of having a Sinn Féin first minister in Northern Ireland and the largest party in the Republic of Ireland will provide a platform for republicans to pursue a border poll.

"So I disagree with Jim. I don't think it is in unionism's interest to be divided. I don't think it is in unionism's interest to have a Sinn Féin first minister.

"I'm afraid we'll have to differ in that."

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