29/03/2010

Empey Challenges DUP Unity Calls

The DUP has "nothing to lose and everything to gain" from a Unionist unity pact with the UUP in Fermanagh/ South Tyrone and South Belfast at the forthcoming Westminster elections, Sir Reg Empey has.

The UUP leader, addressing the party's AGM at the weekend, claimed "people sometimes forget the facts" surrounding the two constituencies, which were previously held by UUP MPs but are now occupied by Nationalists.

Sir Reg (pictured) said: "This party [UUP] had the honour to represent both of these seats for many years, until Peter Robinson and his colleagues decided to intervene.

"In 2001 the DUP deliberately, in my opinion, set out to deny us the [Fermanagh/South Tyrone] seat while having no prospect of winning themselves.

"They supported a spoiler independent unionist candidate who got nearly 6500 votes, resulting in the seat going to Sinn Fein [Michelle Gildernew] by 57 votes."
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Sir Reg claimed the same action was taken by the DUP in South Belfast in 2005, when the Parliamentary seat was won by Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP.

DUP leader Mr Robinson has called on the UUP to help Unionism win back the two seats. The DUP has proposed fielding a singular Unionist candidate in both constituencies, ensuring the Pro-Union vote is not split between it and the UUP.

"I believe in Unionist unity. This party believes in unionist unity," said Sir Reg.

Throwing down a challenge to Mr Robinson, he said: "The DUP has a golden opportunity to make a gesture that could instil confidence that they are serious about Unionism working closer together.

"I say to them that as they were responsible for these seats going to Republicans and Nationalists in the first place, then the honourable thing to do is to let us have the opportunity to win them back for Unionism.

"If this is done perhaps we can take seriously the calls for Unionist unity. As the DUP do not hold either of these seats and never have held them, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

(PR/BMcC)

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