Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

General Election: Former SDLP MLA Danny O'Connor and controversial cleric Pat Buckley insist they'll vote for unionists

Former Larne Mayor Danny O’Connor
Former Larne Mayor Danny O’Connor

By Mark Bain and Steven Alexander

A former SDLP MLA has encouraged North Belfast voters to back Nigel Dodds in Thursday's key election battle against Sinn Fein's John Finucane.

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Danny O'Connor, a former chairman of the SDLP's Cavehill/Fortwilliam branch and the first nationalist mayor of Larne, said the DUP is the only party which shares his pro-life beliefs.

"I encourage you all to vote for Nigel Dodds," the Larne man said. "I am not a unionist by nature, but in East Antrim I will be casting my vote for Sammy Wilson of the DUP.

"I never thought I would be in this position where the only candidate who will uphold my views on the sanctity of life and holy matrimony would be from a party I opposed for so many years at the ballot box.

"I am saddened that I am forced into this position, but if I have to choose between morals and politics, morals win.

"Life is more important than either nationalism or unionism. None of these things matter to a dead baby."

Mr O'Connor isn't the only Larne man from a nationalist background backing Mr Wilson.

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Controversial cleric Pat Buckley was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1998 as a result of his ordination as a bishop into an independent church.

A year later he came out as gay, and in 2010 he and his partner entered into a civil partnership.

The breakaway bishop, who was born in Co Offaly in 1952, said this week's vote "is of vital importance to the future of Northern Ireland where I have lived for 41 years".

"But in one sense, those of us in Northern Ireland can only vote for the side show parties, in the sense that we cannot really vote Conservative or Labour - from where the next prime minister will come from," he wrote on his bishoppatbuckley.blog website.

Bishop Buckley, who was ordained a Catholic diocesan priest in 1976, said that since he arrived in Northern Ireland two years later he had always voted Sinn Fein.

"I am certainly not a unionist - but I live in East Antrim which will return a unionist MP always," he wrote.

"So this year I have decided to forget Brexit etc and vote for my local MP who has given me sterling help as my constituency MP.

"His name is Sammy Wilson."

The cleric said "on three occasions in the past seven years I have been faced with insurmountable challenges to do with establishment issues". "On all occasions I went to Sammy," he said. "And, on all occasions, he worked hard for me and sorted my issues. Of course Sammy and I do not agree on many issues - same-sex civil marriage being one big area.

"However, when you live somewhere where your vote cannot really effect national or even regional change, you do the next best thing - vote for an MP who has a record of being an excellent constituency MP and who has been there for you."

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