Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

How the political pacts played out

North Belfast: Campaign that turned toxic

On the one hand, the SDLP pulled out in favour of Sinn Fein and its candidate John Finucane, while on the other, the Ulster Unionists and the TUV withdrew, leaving a clear run for previous incumbent Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP
On the one hand, the SDLP pulled out in favour of Sinn Fein and its candidate John Finucane, while on the other, the Ulster Unionists and the TUV withdrew, leaving a clear run for previous incumbent Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP

Two de facto electoral pacts emerged in this constituency.

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On the one hand, the SDLP pulled out in favour of Sinn Fein and its candidate John Finucane, while on the other, the Ulster Unionists and the TUV withdrew, leaving a clear run for previous incumbent Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP.

Before it stood aside, the UUP said its staff had faced loyalist intimidation and threats. The Green Party also pulled out to maximise the anti-Brexit vote in the constituency.

The arrangements sparked controversy. IRA abuse victim Mairia Cahill resigned from the SDLP, calling it a ‘grubby sectarian pact’. During a toxic campaign, posters appeared levelling accusations at several of Mr Finucane’s relatives, and Shankill bomber Sean Kelly was revealed as a member of Sinn Fein’s canvass team. In this polarised environment, Mr Finucane won by 1,943 votes.

South Belfast: How Remain pact bore fruit

In South Belfast, Sinn Fein stood aside in favour of SDLP MLA Claire Hanna, in what was widely seen as a quid pro quo for John Finucane's free run in North Belfast.

The Green Party also stepped aside to help the SDLP candidate - a high-profile Remainer - defeat the pro-Brexit DUP incumbent, Emma Little-Pengelly.

The race at times turned nasty, with a poster questioning whether an IRA bomber would be canvassing for Ms Hanna as well as Sinn Fein. Her candidate launch was also picketed by anti-abortion campaigners.

The Remain pact worked - despite Alliance refusing to be part of the arrangement - and Ms Hanna won easily, with a massive majority of more than 15,400.

Ms Little-Pengelly, who took the seat from the SDLP in 2017, said she'd been "horrendously trolled" on social media.

However, her own vote halved.

F&ST: Just 57 votes separated rivals

Fermanagh and South Tyrone is one of the most closely fought constituencies in the UK.

A unionist pact in 2015 delivered it into the hands of the UUP's Tom Elliott by a slim margin.

He lost the seat at the 2017 election, and on Thursday a new unionist pact failed to return him to the House of Commons.

Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew held the seat she won in 2017 by a margin of just 57 votes. Although there was a unionist pact in place in a bid to unseat Mrs Gildernew - with both the DUP and Jim Allister's TUV agreeing not to stand candidates - there was no nationalist agreement.

The SDLP's Adam Gannon drew more than 3,400 votes, reducing Ms Gildernew's margin of victory to double figures.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who lives in the constituency, publicly supported Mr Elliott and was filmed going to cast her vote for him.

North Down: Farry given clear run

Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein agreed not to contest the North Down seat vacated by former Ulster Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon, saying their self-denying decision was aimed at maximising the 'pro-Remain' vote in the constituency.

The Green Party also decided not to stand in the area.

Without nationalist competition for the anti-Brexit vote, the Alliance Party's Dr Stephen Farry was able to capture the seat, defeating both the DUP's Alex Easton and the UUP's Alan Chambers.

During the campaign a number of posters were put up in Bangor showing images of masked gunmen in paramilitary uniform - and featuring the Alliance Party and Sinn Fein logos.

Some unionists speculated that a unity candidate could have taken the seat, as the combined UUP and DUP votes exceeded Dr Farry's total by almost 2,000.

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