Belfast Telegraph

Joint pledge on Executive by Unionists and the SDLP

By Noel McAdam

Threats of lengthy talks leading to a protracted deadlock after the election need not happen, Stormont's two main Opposition parties have argued.

The Ulster Unionists and SDLP say if they are returned as the largest parties they would agree to form an Executive without any negotiations.

And the two parties could then prioritise a budget for the next financial year - including an emergency health budget.

Their promise would also counter SDLP leader Colum Eastwood's threat that his party will not take part in the talks if Secretary of State James Brokenshire is chairman, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said.

"If we (UUP and SDLP) are the two largest parties, which I hope will be the case, then that becomes an academic question," he added. "Our focus is on ensuring that there is an Executive and ensuring that there is no need for talks."

The SDLP said: "The SDLP and UUP have been clear that, if given the chance, we will share power in an alternative government."

Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O'Neill said: "There will be a serious negotiation on the other side of the election once the people have had their say on the RHI scandal and the arrogance and contempt we have seen from the DUP."

There was no immediate comment from the DUP as the two Opposition parties pressed to be viewed as a serious alternative.

Echoing their own mantra of "vote Mike (Nesbitt) and get Colum (Eastwood)", they are arguing that a vote for the DUP or Sinn Fein is a vote to get Theresa May.

The SDLP said going into government with the UUP would mean "getting down to business on day one to work on an overall budget and an emergency health budget to properly resource our health service and relieve the immense pressure on services and front line staff".

"It's becoming clear that Sinn Fein and the DUP are preparing for direct rule. Vote Arlene and Michelle and you'll get Theresa May. That doesn't have to happen," the SDLP added.

Belfast Telegraph


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