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DUP lambasts UUP as hopes fade fast for unity candidates

The DUP has rounded on Ulster Unionists, as prospects for unity candidates in two key General Election contests evaporated.

While local negotiations in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and South Belfast were said to be ongoing, the Ulster Unionist/Conservative alliance (UCUNF) announced candidates for both constituencies.

DUP MP David Simpson accused the former UUP leader Lord Trimble of “a wrecking agenda” in ruling out any unity candidates who could possibly win back Fermanagh/South Tyrone from Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew and South Belfast from former SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell for unionism.

Lord Trimble, who lost his Upper Bann seat to Mr Simpson and joined the Conservatives, said: “We have said all along we will not be joining with any party of a sectarian nature and will be fighting all 18 seats in Northern Ireland — in fact, we will be fighting every seat in the UK, and the Province will be no exception.”

But Mr Simpson argued using words like ‘sectarian’ was very negative. “Perhaps David Trimble thinks there is something sectarian about Unionists working together to unseat anti-Unionist MPs, but I do not, nor do the overwhelming majority of pro-Union voters, who have said they want to see Unionist Unity. I utterly refute Trimble's wrecking agenda,” he said.

And he said the decision — with UCUNF deciding to run against MLA Tom Elliott against Gildernew in Fermanagh and Village area activist Paula Bradshaw in south Belfast — raised questions over the leadership of Sir Reg Empey. “Is he prepared to accept a Tory — who turned his back on the UUP after being voted out of office — dictating the UUP's approach to Unionist Unity? Just who is leading the UUP?”

But Sir Reg said that since the DUP already had nine House of Commons seats and was instrumental in both South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone being won by Sinn Fein and the SDLP, it should hand them back to the new coalition.

UCUNF now only has one constituency left in which to choose a candidate — South Antrim, where Tories had voiced reservations over the UUP’s choice of candidate, Adrian Watson.

A UU spokesperson had no comment to add yesterday.

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