Sinn Féin stands aside in key seats in bid to boost pro-Remain candidates against DUP
Sinn Féin will not contest three of Northern Ireland's seats at the general election in an effort to boost other pro-Remain candidates running against the DUP.
The Irish republican party said it will not stand in East Belfast or South Belfast, where the Alliance Party and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) are respectively better-placed to oust the DUP incumbents on 12 December.
The party also urged North Down voters to re-elect independent unionist Sylvia Hermon, who has opposed the hardline pro-Brexit stance of Arlene Foster’s party.
The move could mark a blow for Boris Johnson, should he again need to rely on the DUP to shore up a minority Conservative government to see Brexit through.
The announcement comes a day after the SDLP announced it would stand aside in North Belfast in an effort to help Sinn Féin’s John Finucane defeat the DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds.
The smaller pro-Remain and Irish nationalist party will also stand aside in North Down and East Belfast.
Conversely, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) confirmed that it would not contest North Belfast, where Dodds will try to defend a majority of just over 2,000, in a bid to maintain pro-UK representation in the seat.
And the DUP will stand aside in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in an effort to help the UUP unseat Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew.
Northern Ireland voted by 56 per cent to 44 per cent in favour of remaining in the European Union in 2016.
However, Sinn Féin's policy of abstentionism from Westminster means the DUP's ten MPs and Hermon are Northern Ireland's only representation in the House of Commons.
DUP president Mary Lou McDonald said: “Since the referendum Sinn Féin has worked with the other pro-Remain parties to send a clear message to the British government, the EU, the Irish government and the US, that the DUP does not speak for the north...
“The recent EU election showed there is an appetite among pro-Remain and progressive voters for increasing co-operation between those who represent the majority who voted to stay in the EU.”
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said: “Given the reality of our political situation… we need to remove as much as possible the very toxic pro-Brexit, pro-Boris DUP MPs, who over their antics over the last two years have done nothing to represent the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster said of the UUP's move in North Belfast: “They know that they cannot win in North Belfast and that first-class representation is already provided by Nigel Dodds.
“I have a strong sense that unionism across Northern Ireland wants to see unionist parties working together for the Union.”