Election 2019

DUP stands aside to support UUP bid in Tyrone

Arlene Foster Image copyright PA
Image caption Arlene Foster said the DUP would stand aside in Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The DUP has said it will not stand an election candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to support the Ulster Unionists' bid for the seat.

Arlene Foster said her party "believed in unionist cooperation" and putting the "wider interest" ahead of "narrow party politics".

Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew currently holds the seat.

A unionist pact helped secure the seat for Tom Elliott in 2015, but he lost it to Ms Gildernew two years later.

Mr Elliott said he had not yet been officially nominated, but he believed the DUP decision was "a positive move".

"There are recognising the situation in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. It's the reality," he said.

Image copyright Pacemaker Press
Image caption Michelle Gildernew celebrates success in the 2017 election

Last week, UUP leader-elect Steve Aiken ruled out an election pact with the DUP but he later refused to say if his party would contest all 18 constituencies.

At the same time, police were called in to investigate threats against Ulster Unionist staff.

People also called the Ulster Unionist headquarters about the party's refusal to form an election pact with the DUP in North Belfast.

On Friday, a UUP councillor said they would decide soon if the party would run in North Belfast.

That seat is currently held by DUP MP and deputy leader Nigel Dodds who beat Sinn Féin's John Finucane by 2,000 votes at the 2017 election.

Mr Elliott said what Mr Aiken had stated about ruling out electoral pacts was "his decision".

"Things are moving on," he added.

"There will be discussions along the way. I am sure people will come to a sensible and practical arrangement."

Image copyright Pacemaker Press
Image caption Tom Elliott won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat in 2015 but lost it in 2017

Speaking about the decision not to run in Fermanagh, Mrs Foster said: "This is something voters from across the unionist community want to see happening and we will be urging DUP supporters to put their full weight behind Tom's campaign.

"Every vote will matter in this election and the votes of Northern Ireland MPs could again be crucial in the new Parliament.

"It is more important than ever to have MPs who will turn up and speak up for their constituents where it matters - inside the House of Commons."

Alliance candidate Matthew Beaumont said the DUP's decision to stand aside in the constituency sounded like a return to "the politics of old".

"It's reducing it to a headcount and that's not what Northern Ireland wants anymore."

Mr Beaumont added:" It's not for me to tell the UUP or the DUP what to do," but he added that his own party believed that voters deserved a choice.

He said the election should be "about the strength of the candidate" and their message, not about unionism versus nationalism.

Asked if he would welcome a non-abstentionist MP, Mr Beaumont added: "My personal preference is that Northern Ireland would return 18 MPs who would take their seats."

However, he added that he would also prefer voters to return 18 MPs who support the UK staying in the EU.

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