Northern Ireland news

Ulster Unionists say 'no' to DUP/TUV electoral pact plan

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (centre), UUP leader Doug Beattie (left) and TUV leader Jim Allister. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

THE ULSTER Unionist Party has rejected joint DUP and TUV proposals for a pan-unionist voting strategy in May's assembly election.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Allister last week called on UUP leader Doug Beattie to cooperate in a plan that would seek to maximise unionist representation at Stormont.

The proposal emerged at an anti-protocol rally in Dromore Orange Hall, Co Down.

This week an Institute of Irish Studies University of Liverpool/The Irish News opinion poll suggested Sinn Féin would supersede the DUP as Stormont's largest party. It also showed that the protocol was not regarded as the most important electoral issue by almost 90 per cent of unionist respondents.

Sir Jeffrey said he had agreed with the TUV leader to "jointly call for all the people who vote for our parties to transfer their votes to pro-union anti-protocol parties".

He said he wanted to avoid a scenario similar to 2017 when the SDLP's Pat Catney took the final seat in Lagan Valley ahead of DUP candidate Brenda Hale.

Pat Catney took the final seat in Lagan Valley ahead of the DUP's Brenda Hale. Picture by Mal McCann

Mr Allister said he and the DUP would be urging unionists to transfer to "other anti-protocol unionists".

"I’d like to see Doug Beattie say the same," he added.

However, while the Ulster Unionist leader has yet to make public comment, the party has issued a statement rejecting the DUP/TUV proposal.

"We are offering fresh leadership to Northern Ireland so we are asking people to vote for their Ulster Unionist Party candidates," the statement said.

"The Ulster Unionist Party believes the Northern Ireland electorate are more than capable of deciding for themselves who they should give their transfers to. They need to be trusted more and dictated to less. It is up to each party to set out their vision for Northern Ireland to attract first preference votes and transfers."

Last May, when he emerged as the sole candidate to succeed Steve Aiken, Mr Beattie told The Irish News that he hadn't ruled out a future pact with the DUP but said he will also consider electoral cooperation with Alliance and the SDLP.

In response to calls for an anti-protocol pact in September, the UUP leader said: "All unionist parties reject it and want to see it replaced, and I will co-operate with others to try and achieve that. None of this requires pacts and there will be no pacts."

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