Colum Eastwood should “come clean with the people of Northern Ireland” and “admit that what he’s talking about is a pact with Sinn Fein,” the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.
Responding to the SDLP leader’s suggestion that his party would not get involved in any “sectarian” pact around nationalism for June’s general election – but might consider a pro-European Union, anti-Brexit one – Mr Donaldson said an attempt to “cut a deal” with republicans was on the cards.
The DUP MP said: “Clearly the SDLP are very worried about holding on to their seats, indeed so worried that they voted against having a general election. It’s clear the SDLP are running away from the electorate and in a desperate attempt to shore up their position are trying to cut a deal with Sinn Fein.
“So be it. I think only emphasises the need for unionists to get their act together and for the two main parties to come to an understanding on which seats we contest and how we maximise unionist representation at Westminster.”
Mr Donaldson added: “Colum Eastwood may want to see more abstentionist MPs returned, but if we don’t have a government in Northern Ireland, and we have people who won’t take their seats at Westminster, then I’m not sure how they are going to be able to influence anything on Brexit.”
Commenting the prospect of cooperation between his own party and the UUP to maximise the number of unionists returned to Westminster, Mr Donaldson said: “Contact has been established between the two parties and I understand their will be further discussions over the weekend about how we can cooperate in various seats during the general election.”