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We'll back the party that gives Northern Ireland best deal: Nigel Dodds

By Rebecca Black

Published 06/05/2015

Noel Thompson chairs the debate between (from left) Mike Nesbitt, Naomi Long, Mark Durkan, Martin McGuinness and Nigel Dodds
Noel Thompson chairs the debate between (from left) Mike Nesbitt, Naomi Long, Mark Durkan, Martin McGuinness and Nigel Dodds

The DUP will work with either the Conservative Party or Labour depending on which would offer the best deal for Northern Ireland, the last TV election debate before the poll has heard.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds made the comments during the debate between local parties last night.

Mr Dodds said he believed tomorrow's general election will yield a hung parliament in which no one party has a majority - offering an opportunity for the DUP to wring concessions from the party best placed to form a government.

"We will judge working either with the Conservatives or Labour depending on which is in the best interests of Northern Ireland," he said.

However, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness poured cold water on the DUP stance, claiming that no party from Northern Ireland would be kingmakers in the aftermath of the election.

The pair had a number of heated exchanges during the debate, most notably when gay rights issues were raised by a member of the audience.

Mr Dodds said his party did not believe in a redefinition of marriage, but emphasised it was not anti-gay.

Mr McGuinness pressed Mr Dodds on comments made by former Health Minister Jim Wells and also comments made separately by DUP councillor Paul McLean. The Sinn Fein man lashed out at the SDLP and Alliance after members of those parties failed to back equal marriage rights during a Stormont. debate.

Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long responded by saying she was "disappointed" that three MLAs from her party had abstained, rather than side with party policy and vote for equal marriage.

The SDLP was represented at the debate last night by former leader Mark Durkan. BBC presenter Noel Thompson said at the start of the programme that SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell had originally been scheduled to take part.

During the debate, Mr Durkan appeared to take a swipe at his party leader over double jobbing. Mr McDonnell served as an MLA at the same time as serving as MP for South Belfast.

Mr Durkan commented that he had avoided dual mandates himself.

The only party leader to take part in last night's debate was Ulster Unionist chief Mike Nesbitt.

When asked about gay rights issues during the debate he said: "I voted against equal marriage, but I don't believe in any unequal treatment."

Mr Nesbitt pointed to action he had taken against veteran Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis in 2012 over comments that described gay marriage as "unnatural and deviant behaviour".

Factfile

Polling stations open at 7am tomorrow, and voters can use a number of documents to prove their identity:

• A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part). Provisional licences are also accepted;

• A UK or Irish passport;

• An Electoral Identity Card;

• A Translink Senior SmartPass, 60+ SmartPass, War Disabled SmartPass or Blind Person's SmartPass.

the first results in Northern Ireland are expected around 1am.

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