Tactical unionist votes have been increasingly significant in the SDLP retaining two of its three Wesminster seats — Foyle and South Down.
But the DUP’s Foyle candidate, Gary Middleton, has said that it is time for unionists to stop voting for the SDLP in his constituency because of various stances taken by the party in recent times.
Mark Durkan had a majority of less than 5,000 over Sinn Fein in the last election while Margaret Ritchie’s majority was 8,412.
Mr Middleton said: “In some constituencies there are unionists who are tempted to vote for nationalist candidates, and in particular the SDLP. It is worth considering the actions of that party before making such a decision.
“In the last few months the SDLP has failed to work with other parties to rename the McCreesh playpark in Newry, they have voted to ban the sale of poppies in the Mid Ulster Council and have forced an Irish-first policy through in a number of other councils.”
Mr Middleton, who recently was co-opted into the Assembly to replace Maurice Devenney as MLA, added: “The SDLP believes that it is able to rely on a number of unionists to vote for them ...given the actions of that party, however, people may wonder exactly what the difference between the SDLP and Sinn Fein actually is.”
Socialists propose more Stormont debt
The Workers’ Party has urged the Stormont Executive to go further into debt – but said it should use the money for infrastructure projects rather than to pay off public sector workers.
Stormont is currently £1.8 billion in debt, and the interest payments alone are now more than £35 million a year. It is borrowing £700m to fund voluntary redundancies.
The socialist party, which is standing five candidates in the election, said in its ‘anti-austerity’ manifesto: “Plans to reduce corporation tax should be abandoned immediately.
“Instead of borrowing £700 million to fund redundancies, the Executive should use these borrowing powers to put construction workers to work, providing 20,000 new homes instead of 20,000 lost jobs.”
It added: “There is an opportunity in this election to reject sectarian politics in favour of class politics and working-class interests.”
BBC and UTV to host TV debates
There are to be two Northern Ireland televised debates between the main parties, it has been confirmed.
UTV will broadcast a pre-recorded debate between the five major parties — DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP and Alliance — on Tuesday at 8pm, followed by a second pre-recorded debate at 10.40pm which will feature TUV, the Greens, Conservative Party, Ukip, Workers’ Party and pro-cannabis party CISTA.
BBC One NI will broadcast its debate on May 5 – just two days before the election – at 9.15pm.
It will be followed by a second programme with reaction to the debate.
The debate itself will be broadcast nationally after Newsnight, and it will also be shown on the BBC News Channel.
l East Londonderry: Causeway Coast Vineyard church, Coleraine, April 24, 7.30pm (Evangelical Alliance/CARE).
l Fermanagh and South Tyrone: Lough Erne Golf Resort, April 27, 7.45pm (focussed on fracking).
l North Antrim: High Kirk Presbyterian Church, Ballymena, April 28, 7.30pm (Evangelical Alliance/CARE).
l South Belfast: Windsor Baptist Church, April 30, 7.30pm (Evangelical Alliance/CARE).