Peter Robinson: Unionist pact is still a possibility
DUP leader Peter Robinson has suggested that talks about agreed unionist candidates for the general election are not completely dead after all.
There had been speculation that the DUP and UUP would agree to a single unionist candidate in up to four constituencies - three in Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
But hopes of a deal faded after the two parties announced surprise candidates in East and South Belfast earlier this week. Mr Robinson suggested that unity talks appeared to have gone nowhere.
"We looked with the Ulster Unionists right across Northern Ireland and I think we let that run its course," he said.
But yesterday he appeared to confirm speculation that there was still a possibility of agreement in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, where a unionist unity candidate missed out on winning by just four votes in 2010. UUP MLA Tom Elliott's name has been mentioned as a possible runner.
Mr Robinson said: "We are two political parties who have our own views on what the strength of our parties might be in various areas. I think there has always been a difficulty because the DUP is the major political party in most of the constituencies in Northern Ireland.
"Therefore it makes it very difficult for us to be able to find agreement on the parties. I think there may still be an agreement but it might be on a more limited basis."
When asked if "limited basis" referred to Fermanagh, Mr Robinson said: "We have looked at a wide range of permutations, but they are slimming down. I am not going to say what they are until we have some agreement. There will be consultations both within the UUP and the DUP as to what might be possible."
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt questioned Mr Robinson's commitment to finding agreed candidates. He said the UUP made a proposal for North Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone, which the DUP rejected.
"Since then we're hearing, not from Peter Robinson, but from unionists in Belfast, that there is a strong desire to add East and South Belfast with Gavin Robinson being given a clear run in the East, and the UUP being given a clear run in the South. The UUP would gladly support that proposal because with a deal unionism can take three of the four Belfast seats."