Would Sinn Féin Support Naomi Long In East Belfast?

Niall Ó Donnghaile, the popular former lord mayor of Belfast and Sinn Féin's likely candidate in the constituency of East Belfast
Niall Ó Donnghaile, the popular former lord mayor of Belfast and Sinn Féin’s likely candidate in the constituency of East Belfast

Following on from my post yesterday examining the announcement that the DUP and UUP will be supporting agreed candidates in four key constituencies for the Westminster election in May, and with an eye on this critical opinion at The Mirror (not to mention watching last night’s debate on the dreadful Nolan Show, Ireland’s very own Poundland Vincent Browne) a thought struck me. Both Conor Murphy and Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin have appealed for an electoral pact of  Left/Centre-Left”progressives” to counter the Pan-Unionist Axis of the Right-wing DUP and UUP at the polls. This has been rejected by Nationalist rivals in the SDLP and the moderate Unionists of the Alliance Party; mainly on the nebulous basis that it appeals to “sectarian” or “ethnic” partisanship.

However I wonder if SF should emulate the principled stand it took in South Belfast during the 2010 general election and step aside in certain constituencies for 2015 to give other liberal parties a chance against the new coalition of political regressivism in the north-east of the country? I’m thinking here specifically of the embattled Alliance Party MP Naomi Long in East Belfast. Admittedly over the last 48 hours she has acted with little grace at the news of the electoral challenge now facing her, adopting a whining self-entitled tone in relation to holding her seat. However moderate Unionists like Long are few and far between, and considerably better than their backwoodsmen rivals in the DUP and UUP (or TUV, for that matter). Would Niall Ó Donnghaile, former lord mayor of Belfast and SF’s proposed candidate in the constituency, withdraw from the contest and ask his supporters to vote for Naomi Long? She might well find such support publicly embarrassing but if it increased the likelihood of her being re-elected in a seat where Sinn Féin has no hope of achieving a victory. Well it would certainly bolster the latter’s claim that it is more concerned with a “pan-liberal front” than a pan-nationalist one.

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