SDLP call for agreed '˜remain' candidate to fight by-election

The SDLP are calling for an agreed pro-EU '˜remain' candidate to stand in any by-election called in Ian Paisley's constituency of North Antrim.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 10:32 am
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 10:34 am
SDLP Brexit spokesperson Claire Hanna. Pic by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have pledged to support a bid to unseat Ian Paisley in North Antrim, after the DUP MP was suspended by both Parliament and his party.

However, unionist parties have said they will not be actively involved in any campaign to oust Mr Paisley.

The 30-day sanction imposed by the House of Commons will force a by-election if 10% of North Antrim voters – about 7,600 people – sign what is known as a recall petition, the first of its kind in UK Parliamentary history. A public process that will see up to 10 venues opened in the constituencey to collect signatures over a six-week period is expected to be triggered in the coming days.

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SDLP Brexit Spokesperson Claire Hanna has now called for all ‘remain’ voices to meet to start the conversation on an agreed candidate that would defend the majority of those in the North who voted to remain.

Ms Hanna’s comments come after the SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood wrote to Party Leaders urging a Brexit Alliance.

In his correspondence, the SDLP Leader said there is a “real opportunity to take on the Tories and stop a hard Brexit”.

Ms Hanna said: “Ian Paisley has to go. He should step aside immediately, not because the SDLP is telling him to but because it’s the right thing to do.

“It is imperative now that all of us work to ensure that a by-election is called and it is won by an MP that will represent the interests of people in Northern Ireland at this critical time. That means only an MP who will go to Westminster and vote against the Tory Brexit can take the seat.”

She continued: “Today the SDLP party leader wrote to all remain voices to ask that we agree to back a remain candidate that will defeat the DUP and help protect the interests of all peoples across these islands.

“With the UK Government almost defeated numerous times in Westminster - we know that every vote counts. It’s time that the people here in Northern Ireland “take back control” and stop any borders in Ireland. To do that we need a ‘remain’ MP.”

She added: “Those who profess they are wedded to stopping Brexit and stopping borders in Ireland should engage immediately with the SDLP. This is our chance - we should not let narrow party interests get in the way of the interests of our people.”