On Slugger we have the full remarks from Peter Robinson, Mike Nesbitt, Naomi Long and Conor Murphy.
Let’s start with UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt,
The Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP have reached an understanding regarding the General Election. The Ulster Unionist Party will have the support of the DUP for Tom Elliott in Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Danny Kennedy in Newry & Armagh. In return the Ulster Unionist Party will support Nigel Dodds in North Belfast and Gavin Robinson in East Belfast.
We began these discussions in October proposing an anti-abstentionist arrangement for Fermanagh & South Tyrone and North Belfast. Since then it has become clear that there is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity to take back Newry & Armagh, albeit this will be extremely difficult to achieve. Our support for the DUP in East Belfast should ensure an additional pro-Union MP for the City of Belfast in the next mandate.
I acknowledge there will be those who feel disappointed that no understanding was possible in South Belfast. The key now is to get the pro-Union vote out on the 7th May, not just in South Belfast but across Northern Ireland.
DUP Leader Rt. Hon Peter Robinson said:
Those who support the Union will recognise the significance of this pact. This is the most comprehensive electoral agreement between our two parties in the last 29 years. Indeed, it is the product of discussions lasting six months.
I want to see unionists cooperating. Too often divisions are manufactured to create difference. Grassroots unionists want to see us working together to maximise the unionist vote. Such an approach is not just desirable, but it has been proven to be effective in increasing turnout amongst unionists.
I commend the constituency associations from both parties who have considered the bigger picture and accepted they should stand aside in the greater interests of unionism. Their sacrifice and efforts to strengthen unionism will undoubtedly be recognised in subsequent elections.
With a predicted hung parliament, I am calling on all unionists to unite behind these agreed candidates and maximise the pro-union voice in the House of Commons. Sinn Fein MPs fail to take their seats. They leave their constituents without a voice in Parliament. Others do not represent unionism. All shades of unionism can lend their vote to these agreed candidates in the knowledge that their action could increase the number of unionists in the House of Commons and reduce the number of non-unionists returned.
There will be those who while rejoicing that a 4-constituency deal has been reached would have liked to see Upper Bann and South Belfast also included. This has not been possible but we will work extremely hard to bring home a unionist in both these constituencies.
On the other side we have the reaction of Naomi Long;
This is a pact that was sealed in East Belfast with 40,000 bogus leaflets. The DUP clearly now know that Gavin Robinson cannot win against Alliance in a fair fight, so they have resorted to this anti-democratic move in a desperate attempt to strengthen their position.
Many UUP voters were already disillusioned by the party’s involvement in whipping up sectarian tensions around flags and parades and this decision will only serve to further alienate them. This decision has sounded the death knell for the UUP in East Belfast, who have abandoned their voters without gaining any truly winnable seats in return. It has also confirmed what has long been the case – if you vote UUP in East Belfast, you get the DUP.
People already viewed the seat as a two-horse race so this changes nothing electorally, other than delivering a calculated insult to UUP voters and to the East Belfast electorate as a whole, by admitting the party is struggling.
The people I represent deserve not to have their vote to taken for granted, but rather earned through engagement, commitment to work and a track record. The DUP-UUP clearly do not trust the people of East Belfast to exercise real choice.
My vision is a more constructive form of unity – building a united community for all people of East Belfast, not a carve-up. Rather than denying people a choice, I offer them a real one: back to sectarian headcounts and the politics of fear and division, or forward to inclusive and progressive politics and a shared future.
We have seen unionist pacts before – this did not work in Fermanagh-South Tyrone in 2010. It will be the same in East Belfast in 2015.
Then we have Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy with a pitch to the SDLP, (Slugger’s understanding is that the SDLP are still not interested)
The coming together of the two main unionist parties, the DUP and the UUP, in an election pact on a narrow sectarian and conservative agenda is a challenge to progressive politics.
These parties have no vision for the future and are happy with crumbs from the Westminster table.
This demands a strategic response from those of us who wish to see a society based on equality, inclusion and the protection of the most vulnerable.
Nationalists, republicans and other progressives should come together to ensure maximum representation for parties committed to defending the core public services of health, education and the welfare state; parties which are unequivocally for equality and which are totally opposed to sectarianism, racism and homophobia.
Martin McGuinness will be speaking to the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell at the earliest opportunity to explore an appropriate and strategic response to this pro-Tory alliance.
We can only achieve this if the SDLP is prepared to put progressive, forward looking politics before their own narrow self-interests.
Happy St Patrick’s Day folks…
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs