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Arlene Foster: I’d stand aside at election for unionist unity

By Adrian Rutherford

Arlene Foster claims she is willing to stand aside at the upcoming election to allow an agreed unionist candidate a clear run at winning back the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat.

The DUP candidate was speaking as speculation continues over an electoral deal between her party and the Ulster Unionists.

The parties had an unofficial pact for 18 years when Ken Maginnis held the seat.

But that ended in 2001, allowing Michelle Gildernew to capture the seat for Sinn Fein.

She held it in 2005 with a 4,582 majority when the DUP and UUP, who together polled more than Ms Gildernew’s tally, ran rival candidates.

The DUP has been calling for a single candidate in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and in South Belfast, where the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell could be unseated. So far, however, the Ulster Unionists have insisted they will run in both seats.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Foster said she was happy to step aside for an agreed candidate.

“The DUP will not put party before country when it comes to Fermanagh/South Tyrone and South Belfast in the Westminster election,” she said.

“I am selected by my party to contest the General Election but I am very much prepared to step aside in the interests of unionist unity.

“The DUP has a long history of standing aside to assist the wider unionist family.”

She said constituents should no longer be denied representation in the House of Commons.

“Whilst the Conservative Party claims to be a party of the union, their actions don't suggest such a stance as they oppose unionist pacts in key seats,” she added.

“Rather than support for the Union it seems they support more seats for Sinn Fein.”

Sinn Fein were contacted several times but no-one was available for comment.

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