DUP calls for ‘unified approach’ from unionists to curtail Sinn Fein
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has called for a “more unified approach” from unionists after a new poll reported a slump in DUP support.
The DUP leader said that while the poll results show a clear majority of people in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom, it was important to ensure that Sinn Fein does not “emerge as the largest party” at Stormont.
Sir Jeffrey made his comments after a LucidTalk poll found that only 13% of voters would back the DUP at present, compared to a steady 25% in favour of Sinn Fein.
The TUV led by Jim Allister saw big gains and is now the third most popular party with 14% support – behind Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists – the pollsters reported.
The move into second place for the UUP, up two percentage points to 16%, is the first time in 20 years the party has been ahead of the DUP.
It’s drop to 13% places the DUP level with both the SDLP and Alliance – Alliance having dropped by 3% since the last opinion poll in May.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who replaced Edwin Poots as leader when he stood down after 21 days in the role, said: “Opinion polls will come and go but the outcome of the Assembly election next year really matters and will shape the future of Northern Ireland.
There is a clear majority in support of the Union and Northern Ireland continuing in the United Kingdom.
“My challenge is to ensure that pro-Union people elect a strong DUP team to lead Northern Ireland forward.
“We must ensure that Sinn Fein do not emerge as the largest party in the Assembly.
“A more unified approach by unionists can prevent this from happening.”
The DUP leader said he has a “positive vision” for the future of Northern Ireland, that also addresses the many problems we have with the economy, hospitals and within the education system.
“I have a positive vision and plan to remove the Irish Sea border, rebuild our economy and society as we live with Covid-19, drive down the waiting lists in our hospitals and fix our schools to ensure children reach their best,” he said.
“I will be taking our plan to every constituency as well as building a team which I believe will command support across the pro-union electorate.”
Sir Jeffrey added: “It was the government in Westminster who foisted the [NI] Protocol on us and it is they who must restore the free flow of goods between all parts of the United Kingdom.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie gave the poll results a guarded welcome as something that will help boost confidence in his party, and attract back some of those who had “lent their vote” elsewhere, but said they were only a snapshot in time.
“We need to have confident, inclusive unionism ... this helps with that,” he said.
TUV leader Jim Allister said “voters are ahead of some parties” in relation to the NI Protocol, and added: “Of course the surge in TUV support, suggested in the latest poll, is very gratifying, but now is the time to stay focused on the unionist fight back in hand.”
The latest LucidTalk opinion poll was commissioned for the Belfast Telegraph,
The DUP support has more than halved in three years, having stood at 31% at the time of the last Westminster election in 2019.
Support for the Green Party is on 2%, with People Before Profit also on 2%.
Another 2% of those polled opted for the “others” option.
The results leave Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill on course to become First Minister in The Executive Office after the next Assembly elections due to be held in May 2022.
If the poll results were reflected in the election, Doug Beattie of the Ulster Unionists would become deputy First Minister.
Meanwhile, health minister and UUP MLA Robin Swann has been voted the most popular leader in Northern Ireland, with a massive 75% rating his performance as good or great.
UUP leader Mr Beattie was next, with 44% rating his performance as good or great, followed by Alliance leader Naomi Long on 38% and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood on 34%.
Despite unprecedented gains for his party, TUV leader Mr Allister was the least popular, with 51% rating his performance as bad or awful.
He was followed by First Minister Paul Givan, who 48% rated bad or awful, Sir Jeffrey on 47% and Ms O’Neill on 45%.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis both remain incredibly unpopular, with 79% and 77% respectively rating their performances as bad or awful.
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