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DUP poised to make General Election gains while seeing Commons influence wane

By Noel McAdam

The DUP could make gains in the general election ­- but still lose out overall in terms of its influence in a new House of Commons. With a good showing, Arlene Foster's party could potentially gain South Belfast from the SDLP and take back South Antrim from the Ulster Unionists.

But it could win the battles yet lose the war - individual gains could still see the party losing its current leverage on the Government which has such a slim working majority of 17.

The make-up of the current House put the DUP in poll position to cut a deal with the Tories if they needed support for specific votes - as the only significant party likely to prop up Mrs May.

Significant gains for the Conservatives on June 8 will reduce the potential influence of the DUP in the House of Commons, particularly in the run-up to important votes on Brexit.

At the same time the DUP is also vulnerable in a number of other seats, not least deputy leader Nigel Dodds in North Belfast and David Simpson in Upper Bann

At present the DUP is the fifth largest party in the House of Commons, with eight MPs, just one behind the fourth biggest party, the Liberal Democrats.

Given the loss of 10 seats in the Assembly - as it reduced from 108 to 90 members - the DUP is already positioning itself as the go-to rallying point for unionists.

Leader Arlene Foster said yesterday: "The forthcoming election will be an opportunity for unionists to unite around a strong Democratic Unionist Party that will advocate for them in Parliament."

But the party also signalled it intends to use the opportunity of the election to fend off Sinn Fein demands for another border poll by making the general election a referendum on the Union.

Mrs Foster added: "The Prime Minister's decision to go to Parliament to seek a general election on June 8 provides the people of Northern Ireland with the opportunity to vote for the Union."

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson also gave an indication of the likely tone of the campaign.

"The political necessities of the Prime Minister has given the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to slap down Gerry Adams and his triumphalist crew and burst their balloon of inflated republican demands," he said.

"Many unionists have expressed their anger at the way in which Sinn Fein has tried to use its veto over the forming of an Executive to demand an expensive, intrusive and divisive Irish Language Act along with legislation to persecute members of the security forces who stood between Adams and his bunch of terrorists over 40 years of the Troubles."

Mr Wilson also added: "Although the DUP increased its vote at the Assembly election just past and remain the largest party, Sinn Fein arrogantly took the increased vote as a right to ram its policies down the throats of everyone and has employed political blackmail to achieve that end."

He concluded: "June 8 gives an opportunity to show that unionists will not be cowed by them."

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