Watch: East Belfast divided broadly along class lines on UUP-DUP pact

Voters in working-class east Belfast tended to support news of a unionist pact – but there was stronger Alliance Party support in the more affluent area of Ballyhackamore.

There seemed to be similar levels of apathy about politics and politicians generally in both areas, however.

The Newtonards Road will be a key battleground in the fight for the East Belfast Westminster seat

The Newtonards Road will be a key battleground in the fight for the East Belfast Westminster seat

The views were expressed to the News Letter during a brief vox pop on the lower Newtownards Road and Ballyhackamore area of the Upper Newtownards Road.

Voters – and non-voters – were expressing their views in the wake of an agreement between the DUP and UUP to field agreed candidates for the general election in North and East Belfast, Newry and Armagh and Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

On the lower Newtownards Road, a number of people were keen to see Alliance MP Naomi Long replaced by a unionist.

Agnes Black said she was “happy enough” about the pact. “Because the other side get everything they want and our ones don’t,” she said.

‘To be honest I would look more to 
somebody who 
understands us – a working-class 
representative’

She firmly believed that the DUP would fight for her community more than the Alliance Party would.

William McClurg responded that “it was the Alliance Party that brought all this flags stuff about them”.

He holds the Alliance Party responsible for that “big time”.

“I think they were the main instigators of it.”

Samuel Weir said: “I don’t agree with Naomi. I have nothing against the woman, as a Christian. But she wouldn’t get my vote anyway.”

Stuart Baxter, however, volunteered that he voted for Alliance Party previously.

“Because I just thought they are in the middle if you know what I mean,” he said. He slammed the pact as it was “not democracy,” adding that the DUP and UUP are “two separate parties”.

Three loyalists who declined to give their names all backed the pact but wanted to know why it did not extend to south Belfast. One of them lamented what he saw as the lack of working class elected representatives. Catholics do not mind voting for ex-prisoners, he said, but Protestants would never consider it.

Of two young women on the street one votes and the other doesn’t. The voter said she never knew who to vote for anyway. A gentleman of 76 affirmed the pact, saying he would vote for the DUP candidate.

Moving into Ballyhackamore, non-voter Alan Halliday said the DUP and UUP “haven’t done much for the working man” but said he would not be supportive of Naomi Long.

“To be honest I would look more to somebody who understands us – a working-class representative,” he said.

The strongest praise for Ms Long came from Chris Carter. “I think for me it smacks a little bit of desperation because, why does it take two parties to try and unseat one person?” he asked. “Surely it should be done over policies rather than personalities? I think they are going to have a real hard job unseating Naomi to be honest. Despite the furore over the flags and stuff she is a very hard-working MP and I think she has done a fantastic job for the people of east Belfast.”

A lady who identified herself as “Trish” described the pact as “slightly underhand” as the unionists are “just trying to bring somebody down”.

She added: “I would prefer politicians to work together and to look for the positive in things rather than sniping at each other all the time.”

Holly Sweeney said she liked both Naomi Long and DUP MLA Arlene Foster as they are “very hard working”. She added that “the rest of them are all talk” and said it was “so sad they are going to join forces to try and put her [Long] out”.

Of two other ladies who declined to give their names, one said she did not know what to think about the pact while another said it was “a very good idea”.

A woman of 27 did not use her vote but said she was thinking about registering. She had “no idea” on the issues. Of four colleagues in their 30s and 40s who work together in a local service business, none of them voted. One said he was “fed up with politics”.