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SDLP strategy met with varying opinions in UUP leader Mike Nesbitt's stomping ground

By Cate McCurry

Mike Nesbitt's comments on giving his second preference vote to the SDLP has caused a mixed reaction in his home constituency of East Belfast.

The mood on the street was somewhat sceptical that the Ulster Unionist leader's strategy would have a radical effect on the end result.

Mark Glass from east Belfast said he was surprised at the leader's intentions: "I thought the UUP's focus was appropriately on economic development and nothing to do with the green and orange line," he said.

"I vote on party policies and for me it has to do with the future as opposed to anything to do with the past.

"It's all about who is going to focus on economic development and foreign direct investment which we need."

John Devine said he votes for who he believes is the right candidate: "I guess they (UUP) will do anything to keep the big dogs out of the Executive," he said.

"I don't think I would vote for someone just because he (Nesbitt) said so. It's time for a bit of change and everyone feels that way, but maybe that's me in my little bubble."

Paul Ryding from east Belfast said he didn't believe Mr Nesbitt's intention to vote for SDLP candidate Seamas de Faoite was a good idea: "Ideally, you should vote with your conscience but it's hard to say these days as you sometimes have extreme candidates and maybe that's the time to step up and transfer the votes on that occasion.

"I don't think this way is a good idea on this occasion."

Unionist voter Josie Millar said she has always transferred her votes to the SDLP candidate: "I think I'm more opened-minded. I've always voted that way," she said.

Fellow unionist voter Paula McAnearney said she would only transfer her vote to the SDLP if she thought it was "better for the country".

The Banbridge woman said: "I think these days the parties are out to do their own thing, financially speaking.

"I wouldn't vote like Mr Nesbitt's way unless I thought it was better for the country. I wouldn't do it just for the sake of doing it."

Sarah Speers who lives in Ballyhackamore said she was undecided whether to vote in the upcoming elections: "I don't think it will change very much or the way parties work in the Executive," she added.

"There are too many big issues like the state of the health service that needs addressed first rather than voting that way."

Denise Guthrie, a voter from south Belfast, said transferring votes across different community parties was a good idea.

"It's definitely something that I would consider doing," she said.

"I have never voted for the Ulster Unionists or the DUP, but I think it's time for change.

"Who knows if it will work, but we will soon see."

One local resident, who did not want to be named, said: "I think it's the most progressive suggestion anyone has ever made in this country with regard to elections in a long time.

"If people did vote that way, it could actually subvert what the DUP and Sinn Fein are expecting that they will both get back in as the two largest parties."

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