Belfast Telegraph

Call for unionists to co-operate

The DUP has called for unionists to co-operate ahead of May's local government and European elections.

Breakaway parties risk shredding the unionist vote when it needs to be strong and united in the face of the nationalist challenge, senior MLA Arlene Foster warned.

She said unionism must step back and look at the damage which splits and splinters are doing to the cause.

"The only winner from the inter-unionist bickering is Sinn Fein. While unionists focus on attacking each other, republicans and nationalists unite around two parties."

The DUP considered running a second candidate in the European election.

Ms Foster said: "There was no risk to the DUP because it was highly unlikely that our existing seat would be put under any threat.

"However, the overall risk to unionism meant that party interests were put second. We did not want to risk the second unionist MEP seat."

She said there remained myriad unionist options.

"The DUP is always in favour of greater co-operation between unionist parties.

"The desire must be to have a strong and united unionism where all shades of unionism work together as a collective."

Northern Ireland's main unionist parties, the DUP and Ulster Unionists, face a hardline challenge from Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice. Ukip has also established a presence.

The 26 local councils are due to be reorganised into 11 super councils with enhanced powers after the May 22 poll.

New councils will operate in shadow form for a 10-month period, before they officially replace the current bodies on April 1, 2015.

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