Election 2015: SDLP reject Sinn Féin proposal for pact

image captionSDLP MLA Alban Maginness said his party's position was clear

The SDLP has rejected Sinn Féin's call for a general election pact after Northern Ireland's two biggest unionist parties agreed to support a single candidate in four constituencies.

Sinn Féin's North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said a pact with the SDLP would be about "progressive politics".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said his party had "no interest whatsoever in a pact with Sinn Féin"

He said he was "deeply disappointed" at the two unionist parties' pact.

"We believe these cynical political moves are designed with the sole purpose of circumventing democracy," he said.

"Pacts are not about getting the best candidates to represent people - this is about pitting one community against another."

Earlier, SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said Sinn Féin's proposal was a mirror image of what unionists had done.

"Our position is very clear, we don't enter into sectarian pacts," he said.

"We are not going to do it in this situation."

Mr Maginness, a candidate for North Belfast, said the pact was "depressingly predictable, sad and disappointing" and amounted to "a sectarian carve-up".

"Progressive politics is about trying to tackle sectarianism, not to embolden sectarianism or to entrench sectarianism," he said.

Mr Kelly said "if the accusation is that we are looking for a sectarian pact then it ignores the fact that we are for religious freedom, for anti-racism laws for LGBT, for the civic forum which they are against and for the Single Equality Act".

'Leg up'

"Is Alban Maginness saying that that is not good reason to come together and bring forward candidates who are for all those progressive policies?" he said.

"It is no coincidence that the [unionist] pacts are in the three areas where Sinn Féin are strong. In other areas they have not made pacts.

"The Ulster Unionists are going to diminish their vote and go down further. The Ulster Unionists have given a leg up to the DUP."

The deal between the Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party means there will be a single candidate from the two main unionist parties in four constituencies.

The DUP will step aside in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Newry and Armagh.

The UUP will step aside in East Belfast and North Belfast.

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