One of the highest profile TUV candidates less than a year ago has come out to endorse the DUP.
Henry Reilly, a Kilkeel councillor with an unusually large personal vote for a local government representative, urged his supporters to vote for the DUP’s Jim Wells in South Down.
Mr Reilly was the second-best performing TUV candidate after leader Jim Allister last year, polling 2,718 votes, but quit the party three months ago.
Now the former Ukip Northern Ireland chairman and former UUP man has endorsed Mr Wells.
In a statement issued by the DUP press office, Mr Reilly said he had decided to “lend my first preference vote to the DUP”.
He said: “I have in the past been critical of the DUP using the prospect of their being a Sinn Fein first minister as a scare tactic to attract unionist votes but it is clear to me that returning the DUP as the biggest party really does matter in this election.
“I have found the constant demands being made by Sinn Fein that we dump Arlene Foster deeply offensive.
“It is up to the people to make up their own minds and vote accordingly. The fact that Sinn Fein brought down the Assembly because Arlene Foster did not surrender to republican demands on a range of issues has proved decisive for me.”
Mr Wells described Mr Reilly as “a crucial member of our campaign team”.
Nesbitt’s logic very similar to that of DUP
Mike Nesbitt yesterday faced questioning on what is probably his Achilles’ heel in the campaign – his stance on voting for the SDLP – and gave an answer which was logically almost identical to the DUP’s key argument.
On Talkback yesterday caller Mary asked Mr Nesbitt about the credibility of him joining in an electoral pact with the DUP to oust Alliance’s Naomi Long “and yet within a few months you are now bad-mouthing the DUP”. She asked: “Can I trust you, or in the next election will you be bad-mouthing the SDLP and have changed direction yet again?”
Mr Nesbitt said there was a “real danger” in 2015 of a majority of Northern Ireland’s MPs not being unionist and that “would have potentially been grounds for the secretary of state to call a border poll”. That stance is very similar to that of the DUP, which argues that if Sinn Fein wins this election it could prompt a referendum. In fact, the law says that a border poll can be called by the secretary of state “if it appears likely to him” that a majority would vote for a united Ireland. Last year ago Theresa Villiers told me that such conditions “are not close to being met”.
• South Antrim: Ballyclare Town Hall, February 22, 7.30pm (Organised by Love Ballyclare).
• Health: MAC, central Belfast, February 22, 1pm (The MAC and Belfast Healthy Cities).
• South Belfast: Mencap Centre, 5 School Road, February 22, 5.30pm (candidates speaking to individuals in groups about mental health, organised by Mencap).
• West Tyrone: Omagh Community House, February 23, 11am (Mencap, as above).
• North West: North West Business Complex, Skeoge Industrial Estate, February 23, 7pm (Enterprise North West)
• Human Rights and Equality Hustings: Galway House, 165 York St, Belfast, February 24, 10am (Human Rights Consortium/Equality Coalition).
If you are organising a public hustings event email details to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02890897722.