SF's Maskey Withdrawn From Election Race

The news that Sinn Fein has withdrawn its South Belfast candidate Alex Maskey (pictured) from the General Election has been condemned as a political "stunt".

The surprise move was announced by the party's President Gerry Adams on Tuesday while he was canvassing in Co Fermanagh - which served to underline the fact that it is thought unlikely that the SDLP will similarly withdraw its candidate Fearghal McKinney in the Fermanagh South Tyrone constituency.

The news came just days after the SDLP leader, Margaret Ritchie, rejected the offer of a pact from Sinn Fein to cover the two constituencies.

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie has said the decision by Alex Maskey to quit the Westminster election is nothing more than a stunt designed to ensure that the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell loses his seat.

"This is nothing more than a cynical election stunt and sectarian gimmick motivated by selfish interests. They claim it is aimed at uniting nationalists but it is really about uniting unionists so that Alasdair McDonnell loses his seat.

"A few weeks ago one Sinn Fein representative called the selection of a single unionist candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone 'a grubby sectarian carve-up'," she continued, noting that "representative was Alex Maskey - now he has somersaulted and is playing the same sectarian card".
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Expressing her surprise Ms Ritchie said: "Sinn Fein's decision is designed to do two things - sectarianise the election in Fermanagh South Tyrone and ensure that Alasdair McDonnell - an excellent cross community MP - loses his seat.

"People only have to look at the recent election results to see that Sinn Fein's small vote in the South Belfast constituency would make little difference to the election outcome. Maskey's decision to resign is a stunt to push unionists toward a single candidate.

"Sinn Fein have offered nothing about jobs or the economy in this election. All they have done is attack the SDLP and try to drive people into the sectarian trenches," she insisted.

"The SDLP will continue to offer the politics of the future. Alasdair McDonnell is the best candidate in South Belfast, just as Fearghal McKinney is the best candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone. People should support them on that basis."

By way of further complication, it also emerged on Tuesday that the DUP's Jimmy Spratt had asked the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists' Paula Bradshaw to stand aside in South Belfast.

Ms Bradshaw said it was "not my gift" and she said that she was staying in the race in line with the UUP's agreement with the Tories.

However, Jimmy Spratt said: "I think it is disgraceful in terms of South Belfast that this deal has not been done, that is what the people want."


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