South and East Belfast Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Sinn Féin take electoral initiative to maximise nationalist vote (April 2010)

In a recent open letter, published in the Newsletter, the Orange Order and Royal Black Preceptory in Sandy Row called for unionists to unseat nationalist politicians by standing joint candidates

The Order's political intervention in the Westminster election contrasts sharply with an earlier declaration that "as an institution we try not to interfere with the political views of any of our members". Once again their mask has slipped.

Of course this is nothing new. The UUP and the DUP had already held unity talks, facilitated by the British Conservative Party, even before the completion of the Hillsborough negotiations.

All, of this can be viewed as a reaction to Sinn Féin emerging as the largest Party in the North at the last European elections, and an attempt to stifle progress which has been made as a result of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent negotiations.

The decision by the unionist parties at the behest of the Orange Order and with the connivance of the British Tory party to come together and agree a unity candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone, and current attempts by the Loyal Orders to do the same in South Belfast, has changed the political dynamic of this election.

Despite our profound differences with the SDLP Sinn Féin believe that nationalist representation should be maximised and protected.

That is why Gerry Adams wrote to Margaret Ritchie offering discussions around an electoral pact. Canvassing in South Belfast it was clear that nationalists on the doorsteps were demanding such a move; they wished to see nationalist representation maintained in South Belfast. Unfortunately the SDLP leader would not meet with Sinn Féin to discuss this issue. Margaret Ritchie failed her first leadership test.

Despite this we have decided to take an initiative aimed at maximising nationalist representation in both of the nationalist seats under threat. That is why I have decided not to run as a candidate in South Belfast.

In making the decision not to run a candidate in South Belfast Sinn Féin is demonstrating leadership in the wider interests of nationalism and not for narrow party political concerns. We have taken this unilateral initiative with the sole aim of maximising nationalist representation by standing aside in South Belfast.

I believe that this initiative will be widely welcomed by nationalists although there will be understandable disappointment in South Belfast that they will not have a republican candidate

Sinn Féin continues to build in South Belfast, going from strength to strength, and this decision is for this election only. I will continue to represent the people of South Belfast and look forward to the Assembly election next year.