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Brexit: Single Remain candidate can oust DUP's Pengelly, says Alasdair McDonnell as he pulls out of race for South Belfast

Alasdair McDonnell
Alasdair McDonnell
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Former SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell has withdrawn from the race to be his party’s South Belfast candidate in the next Westminster election.

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He was due to go head-to-head with high-profile MLA Claire Hanna at a selection meeting in the constituency tonight but has told the Belfast Telegraph he is pulling out.

Dr McDonnell said he was fully supporting his party colleague’s bid to become the next South Belfast MP.

He called for “smaller parties” to stand aside in the constituency - and in East Belfast and North Down  - in favour of a single Remain candidate.

“Claire Hanna would make a fine MP and I hope she will be successful in unseating Emma Little Pengelly,” he said.

“The smaller parties in the constituency should pull out to maximise support around Claire. The same should happen in East Belfast and North Down with weaker candidates getting out of the way for the Remainer most likely to win.”

Dr McDonnell’s proposal would see Alliance leader Naomi Long been given a clear run if she runs in East Belfast, and independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon in North Down.

“This will be a Brexit election,” Dr McDonnell said. “We cannot afford to have another big squad of DUP Brexiteer MPs returned as that entirely misrepresents the views of the majority of people in Northern Ireland who voted Remain.

“The DUP’s Brexit position has done massive damage to our economy. Our health and education sectors are already suffering from years of Tory cuts, and the DUP has set us back even further.

“It is vital that parties work together to reduce the number of Brexiteer MPs going back to Westminster.”

Groundwork: Claire Hanna
Groundwork: Claire Hanna

Ms Hanna was elected as an SDLP MLA in 2015. She resigned the SDLP whip in February following the party's link-up with Fianna Fail.

She also stepped down as its Brexit spokesperson but has continued to be a party member.

Dr McDonnell was South Belfast MP for 12 years until he was defeated by Ms Little Pengelly in 2017. A snap election could be held in mid to late November.

DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly
DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly

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