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'We have to stop bickering and pull together at Westminster,' says Peter Robinson in unionist unity plea

By Rebecca Black

Published 14/05/2015

DUP's Gavin Robinson won in East Belfast
DUP's Gavin Robinson won in East Belfast
Tom Elliott
Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Fein
Former Alliance MP Naomi Long

DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson has called for unionists to put their post-election fall-out behind them and work together at Westminster.

A unionist pact delivered two new unionist seats in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 10.

The DUP's Gavin Robinson gained the East Belfast seat from Alliance and the UUP's Tom Elliott took the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat from Sinn Fein.

The UUP gained a second MP in South Antrim when Danny Kinahan unseated William McCrea of the DUP.

But there have been tensions between the DUP and UUP since the general election after Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt distanced himself from his party's pact partners.

They have also fallen out over alleged the abuse of Upper Bann MP David Simpson's adopted adult children on social media.

The UUP has denied it was behind the remarks and challenged Mr Simpson to provide any evidence it was involved.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the Balmoral Show yesterday, Mr Robinson said it is essential the two unionist parties worked together at Westminster.

He said he had received a lot of positive feedback about unionism taking back the two seats.

"Going around the Balmoral Show, it's East Belfast and Fermanagh that people are talking about, that we have won them back," he said. "Fermanagh is particularly sweet for people because you are taking a constituency from having no representation at Westminster to having representation.

"A lot of people were encouraged by the pact and don't want the unionist parties to fall back into their old habits.

"Some people are quite critical of Nesbitt's post-election stuff, saying now that is over we will go back to how we were before. I think that is a mistake."

Mr Robinson said he wanted to see the eight DUP MPs and the two UUP MPs working together.

"It would be very foolish of unionists to not work together in parliament," he said.

"In the last parliament we had a very good working relationship with Sylvia [North Down MP, Lady Hermon] and worked together with her on issues relating to Northern Ireland. The party even from time to time worked with Naomi Long on issues relating to Northern Ireland, as they do with the SDLP from time to time.

"If the Ulster Unionists feel it is a good idea to go off on their own, I think they are mistaken."

Background

DUP MP David Simpson has been challenged to withdraw allegations that UUP members abused his three adult adopted children, who are from abroad, on social media during the general election campaign.

The demand came from UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who wrote an open letter to the Upper Bann MP over the weekend, which has not yet been answered.

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