Sinn Fein and DUP slate Tories as Northern Ireland parties welcome General Election news

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls a general election outside Downing Street
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Sinn Fein and the DUP have criticised the Conservative government as Northern Ireland’s main political parties welcomed news of a General Election.

After Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun for campaigning on Wednesday, party leaders took aim at the Conservatives and focused on the UK government’s Legacy Act as well as funding levels supplied to Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein ’s leader in Northern Ireland said the Westminster elections are an opportunity to send a clear message to the UK government that “systemic underfunding of public services must end”.

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Michelle O’Neill said: “The Tory government has been a disaster for the people in the north – bad for the economy, bad for public services and bad for workers and families as the cost of living soared, putting them under pressure.”

She said voters could send a message that they want decisions about their life and future to be “made here in Ireland, and not in London”.

She added: “You can vote for a future where our children have the best opportunities to build their lives here at home. A shared future, where all our people and communities work together as one.”

Historically, elected Sinn Fein MPs have refused to take their seats at Westminster.

Setting out his party stall, the DUP leader said that the UK government is “fast running out of steam”.

Gavin Robinson said polling day will provide the people of Northern Ireland with “a clear choice as to who they think is best placed to represent them and deliver the best outcomes for them”.

He said: “While political progress and new mechanisms were secured in negotiations with the Conservative government to allow the Assembly and Executive to be re-established, the next government will have much more to do to ensure Northern Ireland benefits as an integral part of the United Kingdom rather than remaining subject to European laws in some areas of our daily lives.”

He added: “We will use the forthcoming campaign to make the case that now more than ever is the time to strengthen the Unionist position – not divide and weaken it.

“Over the next number of weeks, we will campaign and seek votes to strengthen the pro-Union position. At this election, Unionists know that it is the Democratic Unionist Party that has the strength and depth to be able to make the pro-Union case and to unashamedly make the case for Northern Ireland in Parliament.”

The statement came hours after it was announced his predecessor Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who is facing a series of historical sex offence charges, will not contest the General Election.

His solicitor made the confirmation after a judge fixed a date for a hearing to establish whether there is sufficient evidence to send Donaldson to trial.

Reacting to the election announcement, the leader of Alliance said her party is the “main challenger to DUP”.

Naomi Long said: “Our positivity, progressiveness, responsibility and record of delivery is what we will be standing on, and I am confident people will back us on that platform.”

The Ulster Unionist Party leader said the election would be opportunity to vote for representatives with a “long-term vision” for Northern Ireland.

Doug Beattie said: “It’s time we had strategic thinkers in Westminster, pro-union MPs who can look beyond short-term goals and concentrate on a long-term vision for Northern Ireland.”

Elsewhere, Colum Eastwood said the SDLP’s “mission” is to remove the Tories from power, adding: “It’s time to reverse the toxic legacy bill, it’s time to restore faith in the power of government as a force for good – it is fundamentally time for change.”

The party leader said: “The best way to support that objective in constituencies across the North is to back SDLP candidates who are ready to turn up and vote the Tories down.

Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister said the General Election will be a “battle” between those who believe in the United Kingdom and those who believe Northern Ireland can be treated as part of the EU.

Mr Allister added: “With our historic link-up with Reform UK, TUV offers the people of Northern Ireland to vote for a truly national political movement.”

People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll said the party will “provide a socialist alternative” in the vote.

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