Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Election candidates gather ... but the MEPs don't show up

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson (right) asks questions of the candidates for the European Parliament at the University of Ulster's Belfast campus. They include (from left) Jonathan Bell (DUP), Ross Brown (Green Party), Alex Attwood (SDLP), Neil Johnston (chairman of organisers NIGAG) and Tina McKenzie (NI21)
Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson (right) asks questions of the candidates for the European Parliament at the University of Ulster's Belfast campus. They include (from left) Jonathan Bell (DUP), Ross Brown (Green Party), Alex Attwood (SDLP), Neil Johnston (chairman of organisers NIGAG) and Tina McKenzie (NI21)

This will be no ordinary election, the dark horse in the race to Europe has promised at an election platform event.

SDLP candidate Alex Attwood was speaking after a survey commissioned by the Belfast Telegraph found he had a chance to take Northern Ireland's third seat in the European Parliament at the expense of the UUP.

None of the three sitting MEPs – Diane Dodds (DUP), Martina Anderson (Sinn Fein) or Jim Nicholson (UUP) – turned up to the hustings event last night which was organised by the Northern Ireland Government Affairs Group (NIGAG).

Sinn Fein, the Alliance Party and TUV did not send representatives either.

Most of the parties stated their desire to see the European Union reformed. Ukip candidate Henry Reilly said he would prefer to see the UK leave the EU. However, NI21 candidate Tina McKenzie said she felt Northern Ireland could learn a lot from the EU.

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson received a resounding 'no' from two of the smaller unionist parties when he asked if they would accept the DUP's challenge to step aside to maximise the unionist vote.

Ms McKenzie said her party is not unionist but pro-UK. She described Mr Robinson's call for unionist unity as "an absolute disgrace".

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