I am a strong contender in race for third EU seat: Alliance's Long
Alliance leader Naomi Long has said she is best placed to take Northern Ireland's third seat in Europe.
She is confident of building on the party's successful local government elections by becoming an MEP in the May 23 poll.
Alliance saw a surge in its vote in the recent council elections, with 53 candidates elected.
The DUP and Sinn Fein are expected to retain two of our three European seats. The fate of the third seat, held by the retiring Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson, is less certain.
Speaking at the launch of the Alliance manifesto at the CIYMS sports grounds in east Belfast yesterday, Mrs Long said her party is best placed to take that seat.
The party manifesto includes pledges to secure a people's vote, keep borders open, protect the economy and support the work of the EU.
Mrs Long said: "The recent council election results, in addition with a number of polls and surveys, show Alliance is in prime position to not only substantially increase our number of first preference votes but also gain the required transfers from others to take the third seat and show the EU, and indeed the world, Northern Ireland wants to Remain.
"Brexit is not an orange or green issue and I am not an orange or green politician.
"In 2016, people right across our community came together to vote Remain. I believe we can achieve better together and show that same spirit again on May 23."
Mrs Long said she believes Northern Ireland's third seat is going to come down to transfers, and urged voters to return two Remain candidates.
"In the recent polls that have been produced, we are literally within the margin of error, neck-and-neck with the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP," she said.
"The Ulster Unionists are the current incumbent, and it's very clear if we are neck-and-neck with the current incumbent, we are in contention for that seat.
"Unlike the Ulster Unionists who are moving backwards, and the SDLP who have been drifting backwards, we have forward momentum, so the opportunity is there for us to attract crucial transfers because that is what will decide the last seat, not just the first preference votes but how many transfers we can draw from across the board," she said.
"That's why I am encouraging people who vote Alliance to vote for other pro-remain candidates after they have voted Alliance number one, and I would hope that other pro-Remain candidates will want to do the same.
"It's important we have two voices in Europe who are pro-Remain, who are making a strong statement to government about how Northern Ireland feels about the EU," the Alliance leader said.
"But I believe it is also important that we have a voice there that is not simply a unionist or nationalist voice, that doesn't further polarise this issue but that can represent the broad swathe of public opinion and civic society. And I believe I am best placed to do that."
Alliance’s key manifesto priorities
- Reinforcing progressive values. Alliance said it believes in “strength through diversity, respecting people, enabling opportunities, protecting rights and inclusion”.
- Supporting work of the EU. The manifesto states Northern Ireland’s participation in the EU brings huge advantages.
- Protecting our economy. It says the Customs Union and Single Market “provide massive economic opportunities to our manufacturing, agri-food and service sectors”.
- Keeping open borders. Alliance believes any form of Brexit risks new divisions and barriers, adding: “We must keep the open borders throughout these islands, and preserve everyone’s freedom to trade and live their lives freely.”
- Securing a people’s vote. Alliance wants a fresh referendum, with Remain on the ballot.