The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have made an agreement aimed at securing votes in the upcoming General Election. The pact will see the two largest unionist parties support a single candidate across the six areas in Northern Ireland. This agreement is designed to prevent the splitting of the unionist vote and as DUP Leader Peter Robinson says, he wants “to see unionist cooperating.”
He continued on to say that the pact is the “most comprehensive electoral agreement between our two parties in the last 29 years,” and that it is the “product of discussions lasting six months.”
The agreement will see both parties endorsing Gavin Robinson in East Belfast, Tom Elliott in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Nigel Dodds MP in North Belfast, and Danny Kennedy in Newry and Armagh. There was no agreement made on South Belfast constituency.
UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt said “there is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity to take back Newry and Armagh.” It may be hoped that the pact will give Unionists the upper hand in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency, given that Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew retained her seat in 2010 by a margin of four votes.
There has been some strong criticism of the agreement by other parties in Stormont, the SDLP has described the pact as “a sectarian carve-up.” SDLP’s justice spokesman Alban Maginness MLA ruled out any similar agreement with Sinn Féin saying, “There will be no pact with Sinn Féin as the SDLP was “opposed to sectarian head counts”. He added, “You might as well not bother having elections … it simply becomes a sectarian dog fight. East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long commented saying “The DUP clearly now know that Gavin Robinson cannot win against Alliance in a fair fight, so they have resorted to this anti-democratic move…”
With the election set to take place on the 7th of May, it looks like we won’t have to wait long to see if this political gamble will pay off for the DUP and the UUP, or whether it will ignite the already simmering sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland.