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Nationalist voting pact rejected by Sinn Fein

By Noel McAdam

Published 01/05/2014

Defiant: Sinn Fein incumbent Martina AndersonMartina Anderson
Defiant: Sinn Fein incumbent Martina AndersonMartina Anderson

The electoral rivalry between Sinn Fein and the SDLP was on display yesterday as the two parties held campaign launches within hours of each other.

SF incumbent Martina Anderson refused to agree that her party's supporters should transfer votes to the SDLP's Alex Attwood.

And Mr Attwood said he expected SF would want to "diminish" his party's prospects.

Asked if Sinn Fein would suggest its voters give their transfers to the other nationalist party, Ms Anderson said: "I think people will transfer to the candidates they feel truly represent them, and there are 10 candidates in the field.

"I am not taking the results of the election for granted and the focus for Sinn Fein is to ensure that we maximise our own vote."

Mr Attwood responded: "Sinn Fein will want to diminish the SDLP's chances and on the other side we had the DUP saying they would not run two candidates because it might allow the SDLP to take the seat. I think that people see through the language that is coming from the other parties and recognise that there is a real opportunity here."

Ms Anderson dangled the promise of a potential £1bn EU stimulation package to boost jobs if rules preventing the Stormont Executive applying for funds to the European Investment Bank were changed.

She said she had been the only MEP from here to vote against the first-ever cuts to EU budgets which led to reductions in peace-building funds and the common agricultural policy.

But two hours later, Mr Attwood argued: "Northern Ireland has lost ground in Brussels. We need strength again in Europe with an SDLP MEP as part of the biggest group in the European Parliament and with the impact and influence it will bring."

The party's manifesto said EU membership was worth £3,000 a year to every household in Northern Ireland and said if restored to the seat formerly held by John Hume, he would aim to increase employment by 10%."

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