30/10/2019

Eastwood To Stand As MPs Vote For General Election

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has announced he will stand for the Westminster seat in Foyle after MPs passed a general election last night.

The House of Commons voted for the 12 December poll on Tuesday evening, 29 October, meaning voters will take to the polls for the third time in Northern Ireland this year.

Defining L'Derry as a key battleground, Mr Eastwood said he will challenge Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion for the Westminster seat.

Speaking at a press conference in the city, the Foyle MLA said the poll is an opportunity to elect MPs who will vote against the "national emergency" that is Brexit.

"The bottom line in all of this is that change is made my people who turn up," Mr Eastwood said. "Whilst I respect people who want to be abstentionists, in this current national emergency that we have there is no point in standing outside looking in the window in Westminster. We need people to turn up."

The current Foyle MP Ms McCallion was selected by Sinn Fein in September to contest the seat after first being elected in 2017. Speaking as part of a panel on BBC Spotlight on Tuesday evening, she reiterated that her party's policy of abstentionism will continue.

Meanwhile, ten Democratic Unionist MPs voted in favour of the election, while independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon voted against.

The DUP hopes to use the poll to send a strong message that Northern Ireland is better in the union of the United Kingdom. Party leader Arlene Foster said: "At a time of great uncertainty as to who will form the next government how Northern Ireland votes will matter as never before.

"Unionists need their strongest team returned to so that Northern Ireland's interests are protected in the next Parliament."
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As each of the region's political parties prepare their campaign strategies, UUP leader-elect Steve Aiken confirmed his party will stand in all 18 constituencies and won't agree to a unionist electoral pact.

Unionist parties have previously united to maximise the number of unionist MPs at Westminster.

Mr Aiken, who will replace outgoing party leader Robin Swann, said his party will stand against the Prime Minister's Brexit deal "that will destroy the union".

Alliance leader Naomi Long said her party hopes to gain more votes off the back of their successful European election campaign in May, which saw her selected as an MEP. Ms Long highlighted the election as an opportunity to elect those who want to avoid a hard border, protect the Good Friday Agreement and have their voice heard in Westminster.

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill also set out her party's stance as the poll approaches, saying: "It is a welcome opportunity for the people of the north to have their say on the looming disaster of Brexit.

"It is a chance to reject the DUP and the Tories, to reject Brexit and the Westminster chaos and its destructive influence on the north of Ireland."

Green Party leader Clare Bailey believed the poll will take the form of an election framed as a People's Vote between leave and remain.

"The chaos and division brought about by Brexit is unprecedented and we must ensure that the voice of the pro remain majority here in Northern Ireland is heard and call Brexit out as the disaster it is for our fragile peace, economy and relations," Ms Bailey said.

"Northern Ireland needs MPs who will oppose the callous policies of the Tory party ensuring an end to people being driven to food bank use due to welfare reform and low wages."



(JG/CM)

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