Assembly election: 'Protect pro-union seats' says UUP's Kennedy
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt’s comments that he intends to give the SDLP his second preference vote in the upcoming election have sparked controversy within his party.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy has urged voters in his Newry and Armagh constituency not to follow that lead.
He tweeted that he would advise his supporters to transfer their vote to “the only other unionist candidate”.
He said it was “important to protect pro-union seats”.
Under Northern Ireland’s single transferable vote system, voters rank candidates in order of preference.
On Sunday, Mr Nesbitt said he would select the SDLP as his second preference after the UUP on his ballot paper in March’s election.
But he said he would not tell supporters to follow his example.
“I think I understand Ulster Unionist voters and they don’t like being told what to do,” he told BBC’s Sunday Politics show.
Democratic Unionist Party MLA Jim Wells tweeted: “If voters follow Mike Nesbitt’s advice they will guarantee that the 5th seat in South Down will go to Sinn Fein and not a unionist. Madness.”
In a letter to The News Letter, sent before Mr Nesbitt made his comments, former UUP MP Lord Kilclooney said unionists should vote all the way down candidate list.
“A unionist should vote for all pro-UK parties in descending order and then also vote for united Ireland parties placing the one you dislike most at the very end of your preferences,” he wrote.
“This would result in a unionist being elected and the more acceptable nationalist being elected rather than one who supported terrorism or violence.”
The UUP and SDLP were both opposition parties in the last Northern Ireland Assembly.
Speaking on the Sunday Politics show, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he would not be drawn on who he would vote for after his party’s candidates.
However, Mr Eastwood said he would transfer to the Ulster Unionist Party, but would be using his top preferences for the SDLP.
When pressed on the issue of the parties working together despite their different views, Mr Eastwood replied: “I want to see a United Ireland and Mike Nesbitt doesn’t.
“That doesn’t stop us working together. The system means we actually have to work together, so you can either vote for people who can work together or you vote for parties who have proven time and time again that they can’t, and even when they do they don’t deliver.”
You can watch the interviews with Mike Nesbitt and Colum Eastwood on the latest episode of Sunday Politics on iPlayer.
Source: BBC News – Northern Ireland