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SDLP and Sinn Fein proclaim rival visions for united Ireland

By David Gordon

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have kicked off their General Election campaigns proclaiming their credentials on Irish unity.

Leaders Gerry Adams and Margaret Ritchie set out their rival unification visions in speeches yesterday.

Mr Adams said: “We are in the business of nation building.

“As Irish republicans we have put the issue of Irish re-unification onto the political agenda in London, Dublin, Washington and Belfast.

“We have engaged the diaspora across the world in the campaign for a united Ireland.”

Ms Ritchie meanwhile said the SDLP believed “unambiguously” in Irish unity.

She added: “We will work every day to lay the foundations upon which a united Ireland can be built — mutual trust, respect and protection for minorities.

“We will take our unique ideas for achieving unity to the heart of decision-making in Dublin and London.

“We will press every party in Westminster to engage around the SDLP's radical thinking on unity and our work will present people with the first detailed view of what unity would look like.”

Ms Ritchie also stated: “Further, we will not promise something unrealistic like Irish unity by 2016, simply because it is the anniversary of the Easter Rising. Unlike others, we will be credible on Irish unity.”

The two party leaders were speaking at separate events yesterday officially launching their election campaigns.

The Alliance Party has meanwhile voiced confidence about its chances of a shock breakthrough against First Minister Peter Robinson in East Belfast.

Party leader and new Stormont Justice Minister David Ford launched its candidates yesterday, saying: “These are exciting times for Alliance. We are back in the heart of government in Northern Ireland and we have the best chance in a generation to gain representation at Westminster level.”

Alliance’s East Belfast candidate and deputy leader Naomi Long told the launch event: “After all the scandals at Westminster and closer to home, people are tired of the politics of self-interest.

“They want people who work for them and in the public interest.”

The DUP has launched a a detailed new policy document on the needs of older people. Proposals in the paper include a higher state pension and legislation for an Older Person’s Commissioner.

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