Issue 4-2022 small

15 March 2001 Edition

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Joint strategy makes sense

Sinn Féin's meeting with the SDLP next week about the possibility of a joint general election strategy for the forthcoming Westminster election offers the possibility not only of increased representation for nationalist voters but of changing the electoral landscape.

It can also yield an opportunity to defeat those voices within unionism that currently oppose the Good Friday Agreement.

The facts make fascinating reading. Sinn Féin is currently in poll position in three constituencies, West Tyrone, Fermanagh/South Tyrone and North Belfast. Given a clear run, all these seats can change hands. The same is true for the SDLP if given a clear run in South Belfast, Upper Bann and East Derry.

As the situatiion stands, of the 18 Westminster constituencies, five are guaranteed nationalist or republican representation and can accommodate an internal battle. A further seven constituencies are guaranteed to return unionists, but the remaining six constituencies, all currently held by unionists, can be taken by nationalist/republican candidates.

It's time for those who claim to represent the people to put the interests of the people first. In this context, the SDLP must recognise that playing party political games to the advantage of anti-Agreement unionists is simply not on.

For example, the announcement that SDLP minister Bríd Rogers will be standing in the West Tyrone constituency, where Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty is expected to take a seat from anti-Agreement unionist Willie Thompson, serves no one but those who are against progress and change.

Sinn Féin will make significant gains notwithstanding the SDLP's stance, but a joint election strategy would benefit both parties and the peace process.

It just makes sense.


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