High-profile former SDLP councillor Mairia Cahill has quit the party over its decision not to field a candidate in North Belfast, branding the move “despicable”.
Ms Cahill, a Senator for the Irish Labour Party in Dublin, and who joined the SDLP last year and was co-opted to Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, said the move by the SDLP is “facilitating a sectarian headcount”.
“You are taking your voters as fools if you think that they will not think that this is a pact,” she said.
“Trying to dress it up as any other kind of arrangement is disrespectful of the electorate, who can see through this from a million miles away.”
She continued: “The main thing is that I would have been a hypocrite had I remained in the party over this, in particular to the North Belfast area that I worked in for years.
“To abandon voters – either through putting in someone who is pro-Brexit or someone who won’t take their seat, won’t sit at select affairs committees, won’t introduce any legislation, won’t vote against bad legislation – to basically throw those people who would vote for the SDLP to the wolves in a two-horse race is quite despicable.
“I have had comments from IRA victims who are very, very angry about this. Some of those people would have voted tactically for the SDLP. Where does this leave those victims in terms of the SDLP standing aside to facilitate Sinn Fein?
“You also have people who have been in the SDLP for decades, who have always opposed IRA violence. Where does this leave those people?”
Ms Cahill also said the so-called ‘pact’ with Sinn Fein presents difficulties for the SDLP’s ‘policy partner’ in the Republic of Ireland.
The SDLP entered a partnership with Dublin-based party Fianna Fail earlier this year.
But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has regularly criticised Sinn Fein’s policy of abstentionism when it comes to Westminster.
Ms Cahill added: “It poses a question in terms of the Fianna Fail link up.
“Micheal Martin has been equally as critical of the Sinn Fein abstentionist policy, towards Mary Lou McDonald for example.
“He’s spoken on the record in the Dail about the abstentionist policy of Sinn Fein, so given that the SDLP have linked up with Fianna Fail, where do they stand now in terms of this electoral pact? What position does that put the partnership with the SDLP in?”
The News Letter has invited Fianna Fail to respond to Ms Cahill’s comments.