Belfast Telegraph

LucidTalk poll reaction: Imagine what Sinn Fein First Minister would do to Northern Ireland way of life, says Nigel Dodds

By Jonathan Bell

In the wake of latest polling for the forthcoming election which shows the DUP neck-and-neck with Sinn Fein for predicted vote share, Nigel Dodds has said a split unionist vote could give the republican party the First Minister's post.

"Just imagine what that would mean for our way of life," said the DUP MP and its director of elections.

The Belfast Telegraph reported on the findings of an opinion poll which shows the DUP could lose 3.3% of its vote compared to the 2016 poll, putting the party within 0.7 of a percentage point to rivals and former partners in government Sinn Fein.

It also shows that Arlene Foster is the most unpopular of all the Northern Ireland political party leaders.

More: Poll: Arlene Foster rating plummets - DUP and Sinn Fein neck-and-neck

This comes in the wake of the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal, which brought about the downfall of the Executive, after revelations that caps were not imposed in the scheme and many businesses were able to profit from it. It was also revealed that after warnings the scheme was seriously flawed, restrictions were not put in place for months.

In the run up to last year's Assembly vote, the DUP faced criticism for focusing its campaign on Mrs Foster and warning voters that there was a possibility the then Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness could be first minister.

The Executive office is a joint office held by the first and deputy first ministers. Their powers are equal and they can't act without the say so of the other. The party with the largest number of votes get the first minister title, with the smaller getting the deputy designate.

However, it would appear the party is to take a similar approach in the forthcoming election.

DUP Director of Elections, Nigel Dodds said: "These poll results show that, come election day, Sinn Fein could return to Stormont with the most seats and take the first minister’s post. 

"Then there will be nothing to stop them implementing their radical agenda for Northern Ireland.  Just imagine what that would mean for our way of life.

"The poll also shows the DUP remains the largest unionist party, with the UUP and other parties well behind, but there is a real danger of the unionist vote splitting.

"So if the people of Northern Ireland really want to stop Sinn Fein from getting power, and implementing their radical agenda for Northern Ireland, then you cannot risk splitting the Unionist vote.  You must vote DUP.

"That is the message we will take to every street in every town in Northern Ireland as we seek to earn the trust of the people."

The UUP branded the comments as arrogant and desparate.

Doug Beattie said: "How much longer will the DUP try to treat the public as if they are fools? They are so desperate to stop people looking at the huge RHI shaped elephant in the room that they are waving the “stop Sinn Fein” card again. 

"It’s the same message from them election after election, followed by the same long list of failures, scandals, incompetence and arrogance. These are not unionist values, yet this is what has been served up to public during the DUP’s ten long years in Stormont Castle.

“Who do they think they are, telling the public that they must vote DUP?  This is just typical of their arrogant attitude.

“The DUP are clearly unnerved by recent events.  The public are craving a real fresh start with parties who are ready to form a coalition of the willing, capable of building trust, showing mutual respect and putting the country above petty party interests.   The Ulster Unionist Party will focus on the growing number ready to join those voting for change.”

Sinn Fein has been asked if it would like to respond.

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