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Unionist grandee Rev Martin Smyth in South Belfast candidates row

Unionist grandee, the Rev Martin Smyth, has accused the DUP of misleading him in a row over his endorsement in the General Election battle for South Belfast.

Mr Smyth was president of the Ulster Unionist Party and challenged unsuccessfully for the leadership. He was South Belfast MP until 2005.

Candidates for the seat held last time by the SDLP's Dr Alasdair McDonnell include the Democratic Unionists' Jonathan Bell and the UUP's Rodney McCune.

Mr Smyth has pledged to support both unionist rivals.

He signed Mr Bell's nomination papers but claimed he only did so because he was told he could also sign his competitor's papers.

He said: "I have known Rodney for many years. I believe with his training and experience he would make not only a more than acceptable candidate for Ulster Unionism, but a fine representative for the people of South Belfast."

Mr Smyth rebelled under David Trimble's leadership of the UUP, quitting the Westminster party whip in protest at Mr Trimble's policies.

He was a high-profile opponent of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

He is a former religious minister and Grand Master of the Orange Order.

Mr Bell has said he had made an honest mistake and was removing Mr Smyth's name from his nomination papers.

A UUP spokesman said: "Martin Smyth endorsed Rodney McCune for South Belfast a couple of weeks ago. That remains the case. Ulster Unionists are the only pro-Union candidates to have won South Belfast in the past and we are best placed to do so in the future."

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