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Green leader Bailey confirms party won't contest South Belfast, endorsing SDLP's Hanna for seat

Hanna favourite to replace Little Pengelly as pro-Remainers join forces

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Green leader Clare Bailey. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Green leader Clare Bailey. (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Emma Little Pengelly

Emma Little Pengelly

Claire Hanna

Claire Hanna

Lady Sylvia Hermon

Lady Sylvia Hermon

Naomi Long

Naomi Long

David Campbell

David Campbell

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Green leader Clare Bailey. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Green Party leader Clare Bailey has confirmed she will not stand in South Belfast for the Westminster General Election and has endorsed SDLP MLA Claire Hanna for the seat, as the Belfast Telegraph first revealed on Tuesday morning.

Ms Bailey said she had listened to her constituents on the matter saying these "extraordinary times demanded an extraordinary response".

The MLA said the SDLP's Claire Hanna was best placed to take the South Belfast seat from the DUP's Emma Little Pengelly.

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Emma Little Pengelly

Emma Little Pengelly

Emma Little Pengelly

"Almost 70% of the people of South Belfast voted to remain in the EU and it is vital that a pro-Remain MP is returned," said Ms Bailey.

“Claire Hanna and I have worked well together across a range of issues as South Belfast MLAs and Claire shares my strong pro-Remain credentials.

“I believe that Claire Hanna is well versed on the threats posed by Brexit and can use her Westminster relationships to make an early and positive impact.

“I’ve listened to the people of South Belfast and I’m taking the action needed to reject Brexit and Tory austerity.”

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Claire Hanna

Claire Hanna

Claire Hanna

Ms Hanna said she was "genuinely trilled" to have the backing of the party saying she admired Ms Bailey for her "practical, planet-centered and post sectarian politics".

"This election is about Brexit and we're fighting hard to be South Belfast's remain voice," she added.

It is understood the Greens are preparing to run in East Belfast where Alliance leader Naomi Long is hoping to unseat the DUP's Gavin Robinson, however, it was unclear what other seats the party is to contest.

Ms Bailey confirmed to the BBC they would stand aside in North Down if independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon decided to contest her seat once again.

Sources told the Belfast Telegraph the party was considering its options on North Belfast in light of the SDLP's decision to pull out. The party did win its first councillor in the area at this year's local government elections.

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Lady Sylvia Hermon

Lady Sylvia Hermon

Lady Sylvia Hermon

Ms Bailey said the party was still in the process of determining which areas it would contest with the deadline for final decision to be made on Tuesday.

“Brexit has been a shambles right from the beginning and chaos has reigned at Westminster ever since," she added.

“The Green Party NI is committed to remaining in the EU - we campaigned to remain and we’ve called for a People’s Vote since 2016."

The SDLP and Sinn Fein have opted to stand aside in three areas in a bid to return pro-remain candidates to Westminster. The SDLP denied they were involved in any pact saying Brexit had changed the political landscape.

The SDLP will not contest in North Belfast or East Belfast and North Down.

Announcing their decision to stand aside in South and East Belfast and North Down, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald added: "You can call this a pact, you can call it what you wish, the reality is that we're asking people to come out and to vote for those pro-remain candidates."

The DUP has stood aside in Fermanagh & South Tyrone in favour of the UUP, which has opted out of North Belfast.

UUP leader-designate Steve Aiken has refused to rule out the party withdrawing from other seats after initially saying the party would stand in all 18 constituencies.

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