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East Belfast: Don't back Alliance, plead Sinn Fein and SDLP

By David Young

Published 13/04/2015

Concern: Mary Muldoon
Concern: Mary Muldoon

Sinn Fein and SDLP candidates in East Belfast have urged supporters to resist the temptation to support Alliance in a bid to defeat unionism.

With the nationalist and republican parties having no realistic chance of winning the seat, the high-profile race between Alliance's Naomi Long and the DUP's Gavin Robinson does lend itself to the potential for tactical voting.

It is an option undoubtedly under consideration by at least some residents in the republican enclave of Short Strand and among a growing number of Catholic middle-class families living in suburbs on the outskirts of the constituency.

Sinn Fein candidate Niall O Donnghaile concedes voters who in the past have supported his party have raised the prospect of backing Mrs Long.

"I would be telling lies if I said it hasn't come up - it has come up," he said.

"People who are Sinn Fein supporters, people who are genuinely Sinn Fein voters have asked, but I wouldn't over-egg it either.

"I am a political animal, I'm not stupid, I know people are going to mull on things and it's up to me to go out and rap the doors and have that conversation."

SDLP candidate Mary Muldoon also does not want to lose votes to Alliance.

"It is a difficult one because obviously we would be very anti-unionist but we still want to get a strong vote," she said.

"We would still say if you are SDLP, vote SDLP."

The other two candidates in the six-way race are the Green Party's Ross Brown and Conservative Neil Wilson - but the seat is widely considered to be a straight fight between the Alliance Party and the DUP.

The Ulster Unionist Party is not standing in East Belfast to give the DUP a clear run as part of a four-seat electoral pact.

Mrs Long is fighting to hang on to her seat which she won from DUP leader Peter Robinson in 2010.

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