General Election 2017: Northern Ireland's Green Party say no to anti-Brexit pact
The Green Party have said they won't enter into a pro-remain pact for the General Election.
Following discussions on Tuesday the party leader Steven Agnew said the SDLP's choice of Alasdair McDonnell as south Belfast candidate "effectively put to an end any chance of an agreed candidate in that constituency".
He said they cannot enter into a pact with parties and individual candidates who "fall short" of their "clear vision for a progressive society based on stability and sustainability".
"The decision has followed discussion amongst party members and our party Executive. We also met with the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the UUP as parties who had previously take a pro-remain stance," he said.
“The Green Party has a clear vision for a progressive society based on stability and sustainability. We cannot enter into a pact with parties and individual candidates that fall short of that.
“The SDLP’s choice of Alasdair McDonnell as a South Belfast candidate effectively put to an end any chance of an agreed candidate in that constituency. We believe that Clare Bailey is much better placed to unify the electorate.
“The Green Party could not ask voters to support Alasdair McDonnell. Mr McDonnell doesn’t trust women, as evidenced by his position at the forefront of the SDLP anti-choice policy.
“We also met with Sinn Fein about a pro-remain pact. However, they failed to provide any indication that they would take their Westminster seats.
“It is impossible to oppose hard Brexit at every turn without taking seats in parliament.
“We did meet with the UUP but it is clear that they have abandoned their-pro remain principles."
Mr Agnew added: “I requested a meeting with Alliance leader Naomi Long and she refused to engage with the Green Party on this issue. I am disappointed that Alliance chose to spurn further co-operation among pro-remain parties.
“The irony is that it was Alliance who turned this into a sectarian issue.
“My final message is to voters – we’ve been right to explore the possibility of a pro-remain pact. However it became clear that there was too much distance between the parties and too little time to bridge the gap.
“We’re committed to putting you first, to put people ahead of party politics. This means opposing Brexit, protecting our public services and opposing rampant austerity. After the election we co-operate with any party seeking to achieve these aims.
“We will announce a strong team of Green candidates in due course”.
Sinn Fein's Michelle O’Neill said failure to agree to a pact "may gift seats to pro-Brexit, pro-Tory and anti-equality hardliners".
Ms O’Neill said: “I am disappointed that parties which are opposed to Brexit and Tory cuts and which are pro equality have not been able to agree a progressive alliance to contest the Westminster election.
“This will almost certainly gift seats to some of the most pro Brexit hardliners.
“I would urge those parties to reconsider.
“Sinn Féin remains committed to maximising the anti-Brexit vote in this election.”
In response the Alliance party said the Green Party was now "tainted from chasing a nationalist pact" and said it remained happy to talk to any party on matters of "common cause around policy matters".
A spokesman said: "The Green Party have belatedly recognised their own naivety in even considering pacts, and have become more desperate in doing in the past few days.
"To think Alasdair McDonnell, a socially conservative incumbent SDLP MP, would step aside in South Belfast or Sinn Fein would renounce their long-standing and counterproductive abstentionist policy was never realistic.
"The Green Party is now tainted from chasing a nationalist pact and their seeming desire to turn several constituencies into a sectarian headcount.
"Alliance has been clear from the outset in our rejection of pacts as a matter of principle and we have not been interested in giving any mixed message on that point from having any meetings on the matter.
"We remain happy to talk to any party on matters of common cause around policy matters, including on how we can avoid a hard Brexit and secure a special deal for Northern Ireland."
Belfast Telegraph Digital