DUP to run one candidate for MEP
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will only run one candidate in the European election, party leader Peter Robinson has said.
The party had been considering whether to run two candidates in the fight for Northern Ireland's three seats in the European parliament.
But Mr Robinson tonight said current DUP MEP Diane Dodds would be the party's only candidate in the May election.
Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson and Ulster Conservatives and Unionists' Jim Nicholson are the other two outgoing MEPs for the region.
Mr Robinson outlined the party's decision during a speech at the East Londonderry DUP Association annual dinner.
"In recent months we have been considering our approach to the European elections," he said.
"We have had an important and constructive debate about whether to run one or two candidates.
"For many it has been finely balanced with strong cases put on both sides.
"There are those who make the case that we have nothing to lose by running two candidates and everything to gain.
"They point to the weakness of our unionist opponents and the real opportunity that exists if we were to maximize our vote and balance it appropriately to win the second seat.
"I understand those arguments and I respect them. However, as leader of the largest unionist party I believe that I have a responsibility not just to the DUP but to unionism as a whole."
Mr Robinson added: "There is a real danger that in a crowded field a second non-unionist candidate could be returned on the basis of a strong nationalist turnout, and transfers from Sinn Fein.
"It is because of the importance of maintaining the maximum unionist representation in Europe that the DUP officers will be recommending that the party field only one candidate."