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It'll be a head-to-head between the DUP and SF as the SDLP stands aside in Belfast North

Sinn Féin announced that it would not contest three constituencies in Northern Ireland.

The race in Belfast North will be Nigel Dodds and John Finucane.
The race in Belfast North will be Nigel Dodds and John Finucane.
Image: PA Images

Updated Nov 4th 2019, 1:15 PM

PRESSURE IS BUILDING on DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds after the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) announced that it would not be fielding a candidate in the Belfast North constituency in the general election. 

The decisions leave the race largely between Sinn Féin and the DUP, raising the possibility that a Sinn Féin candidate, Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane, could take the seat from Dodds. 

Sinn Féin also announced that it would not contest South Belfast, East Belfast or North Down.

Voters should “come out and back candidates that have a vision of a positive future”, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said.

In a statement on Twitter, the SDLP said that it had taken a “unilateral decision not to stand candidates in North Down, North Belfast and East Belfast”. 

“Our first priority is to elect pro-Remain MPs to vote against Brexit & Boris Johnson but removing pro-Brexit MPs in Belfast is also critical,” the statement said.

Scrutiny had been focused on the constituency, where Nigel Dodds has a slim majority of only a few thousand votes. In the 2017 general election, the SDLP fielded a candidate in the constituency. 

The incoming Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken had faced considerable pressure after initially refusing to agree to an election pact with the DUP in North Belfast. 

Last Friday, the PSNI said that it was investigating threats made against UUP staff, following Aiken’s announcement.

Aiken announced yesterday that the party would now not be contesting the seat against Dodds.

The Sinn Féin decision means that the SDLP candidate Claire Hanna will be left to take on the DUP in Belfast South, after Emma Little Pengelly secured a surprise victory over the nationalist party in the constituency in 2017. 

The Alliance Party’s leader and MEP Naomi Long will be standing again in East Belfast against the DUP MP Gavin Robinson. Sinn Féin’s candidate secured 2.1% of the vote in the constituency in 2017. 

The announcement means that Sinn Féin is effectively backing independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon – the only non-DUP voice representing Northern Ireland in the House of Commons – who will be attempting to retain her seat in North Down. 

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