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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
General election nominations open
Ballot box
The electorate is getting ready to vote on 5 May
Candidates standing in the general election in Northern Ireland have begun to hand in their nomination papers.

Eighteen seats are being contested with at least 100 candidates already declaring an interest.

Fifteen of the outgoing MPs are defending their seats, whilst three political veterans are stepping down.

They are the Ulster Unionist, Martin Smyth in South Belfast, the SDLP's Seamus Mallon in Newry and Armagh and former SDLP leader John Hume in Foyle.

Their Westminster seats will be hotly contested.

In the Foyle constituency, Mr Hume's successor, Mark Durkan, will battle it out with Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin.

Other fierce battlegrounds include East and South Antrim, North Down, Fermanagh/South Tyrone and the Upper Bann constituency where the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, is defending his seat.

As he arrived to lodge his nomination papers the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, told reporters his party was taking nothing for granted.

"There are in my view seven winnable seats. It is far too early to call how we will do.

"At the last Westminster election we only won one of the seats we currently hold by 53 votes.

In Banbridge four of the DUP's candidates lodged their nominations together.

Jeffrey Donaldson, David Simpson, Paul Berry and Jim Wells were accompanied by their party leader Ian Paisley.

It's the first time Mr Donaldson will contest Lagan Valley as a DUP candidate.

He defected to the DUP from the UUP in 2004.

The Alliance Party's East Belfast candidate, Naomi Long, lodged her papers with fellow candidates Gerri Rice (South Belfast) and Marjorie Hawkins (North Belfast).

The party's deputy leader, Eileen Bell, came along to endorse the all-female team.

Ms Long said "I hope I have proven myself to be a dedicated and hard-working local representative.

"I am offering the people of East Belfast a fresh, positive and constructive approach to politics, and the only real alternative to the negative, tribal politics which have dominated the scene for so long.

The nominations will close next Tuesday, 19 April.



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