Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 07:48 UK

DUP will not contest North Down MP seat

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The DUP has announced it will not be fielding a candidate in North Down, currently represented by former Ulster Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon.

The party said it is still trying to come to an electoral arrangement with the Ulster Unionists over two seats currently represented by nationalists.

The DUP said it wanted to reach an agreement with the UUP over South Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

It said it was doing so in the spirit of unionist cooperation.

Those seats are currently held by the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell and Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew respectively.

"We are continuing to pursue efforts to reach a resolution in the two winnable constituencies where there is no unionist member of parliament and which are currently held by nationalists and republicans," a DUP statement said.

"Whilst the DUP is the largest unionist party in both South Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone we are prepared to reach agreed arrangements with the Ulster Unionist Party either through the DUP running in one constituency and the UUP in the other, or by agreeing unity candidates that both parties support.

"We are determined to maximise the number of seats held by unionists at Westminster so that Northern Ireland members can work together in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland."

However, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey accused the DUP of a "totally bogus exercise".

"Last year's European elections clearly showed that the DUP was in a minority amongst unionist voters in both South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone."

"As the DUP has never represented these seats, it is clear that we are better placed to regain these seats for pro-union voters," he said.

He also said asked "what possible logic" there was for the DUP standing aside in North Down.

'Nonsense'

The Traditional Unionist Voice said the DUP's claim that it was standing aside in that constituency for unionist unity was "utter nonsense".

"The DUP's stated reason for not fielding a candidate in North Down is cynical in the extreme.

"There is no possibility of North Down being won by a nationalist," the TUV's Kaye Kilpatrick said.

She claimed the move was about helping Lady Sylvia Hermon, who is standing as an independent unionist, to retain the seat.

She resigned from the Ulster Unionists over the party's pact with the Conservatives.



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