SDLP has ‘no intention’ of stepping aside for SF

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

The SDLP has rebuffed Sinn Fein calls for it to stand aside in two constituencies to maximise the “anti-Brexit vote”.

Michelle O’Neill urged SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to “do the right thing” and not field candidates in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and North Belfast.

In both constituencies, Sinn Fein is attempting to displace a sitting unionist – DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds in North Belfast and former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

While Mrs O’Neill called on Mr Eastwood to withdraw from those two races, she did not offer to do the same in constituencies where the SDLP is potentially better placed to win, insisting Sinn Fein would stand in all 18 constituencies.

“If the SDLP believe in that anti-Brexit position that they consistently said in their public narrative then they should do the right thing,” she said.

After making the announcement at the party’s offices in west Belfast, Mrs O’Neill faced questions on what the SDLP would gain from such an offer.

She responded: “They get the maximum number of MPs returned which are going to be anti-Brexit, which is their position.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, in response, said his party has “no intention of facilitating abstentionist MPs who won’t take the fight to the Tories on Brexit”.

He added: “No one has worked harder to form a broad anti-Brexit alliance than us.

“We offered to support independent, non-party aligned candidates in constituencies where the people voted to remain but the MP votes for Brexit. Other parties have rejected those proposals.”

Mr Eastwood also confirmed his party would stand candidates in all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies.