Alasdair McDonnell: I’m backing pro-Remain pact in South Belfast
Former South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell has spoken in support of the decision by the Greens and Sinn Fein to stand aside to bolster SDLP candidate Claire Hanna’s changes of defeating DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly.
Mr McDonnell, who held the seat for more than a decade until losing it to the DUP in 2017, said that he felt that what had happened was “almost inevitable” because of the unprecedented circumstances created by Brexit.
The former SDLP leader told the News Letter: “Brexit created very unique circumstances and people are reacting to Brexit.
“The second factor in it is that the DUP have behaved awfully the last number of years and they’ve betrayed much of what was expected of them not just for unionism but for the whole community.”
The SDLP veteran said there was “palpable anger” at the DUP in the constituency “around not just RHI, but other things” and a belief that “Brexit is a disaster for Northern Ireland”.
He said: “My sense is that this election is about 95% about Brexit – other issues will impinge, but Brexit is central to it.”
When asked if he thought Ms Hanna was now the favourite to win, Dr McDonnell was cautious: “I wouldn’t count any chickens.
“Elections are funny things – I won elections I didn’t expect to win and lost elections I didn’t expect to lose.”
Dr McDonnell also spoke warmly of independent unionist Lady Hermon.
The former Ulster Unionist, who is standing down as MP for North Down, is “one of the most wonderful people”, Dr McDonnell said, who “represents everyone and everything”.
He said that “I disagree with her a lot but we’re still friends”.