Belfast Telegraph

General Election: SDLP 'don't do pacts' says Ritchie - as DUP want to 'quickly' arrange talks with UUP

By Claire Williamson

An SDLP MP has ruled out any suggestion of the party entering a pact with Sinn Fein ahead of the General Election.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: "We won't do electoral pacts."

Flashback to March Stormont election results 2017  - select a constituency - North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down

Meanwhile DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said his party wants to "quickly" arrange talks with the UUP on a potential pact. He told BBC Good Morning Ulster: "We will be arranging to talk to the UUP very quickly because we recognise if Northern Ireland is to maximise its representation and to have a strong voice in absence of our own government we need to return MPs that will take their seats in Westminster.

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He added: "We have by far the largest number of seats in Westminster we want to increase our seats in the general election because we believe that will give us more influence in securing the best deal for Northern Ireland.

"We want to see a package here and more than just a focus on one seat."

It comes as UUP leader Robin Swann said on Tuesday that he was "open to talks" on the issue.

The decision to call a General Election has cast doubt over whether a deal will be found in the current Stormont talks.

Northern Ireland's political parties are set to resume crisis talks on Wednesday aimed at forming a power sharing government.

The parties missed the deadline in forming a government within the six weeks after the election.

Prime Minister Theresa May has defended her decision to call the poll for June 8 saying she "reluctantly" changed her mind in recent weeks.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today: "I genuinely came to this decision reluctantly having looked at the circumstances and having looked ahead at the process of negotiation.

"I want this country to be able to play the strongest hand possible in those negotiations and be in a position to get the best possible deal.

"That is in our long-term interest. That is what this is about."

The early poll is expected to secure the two-thirds Commons majority it requires to go ahead.

It will be voted on on Wednesday.

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