SDLP will consider ‘Remain’ election pact

Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan. DER1815MC134
Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan. DER1815MC134

Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said his party will examine the potential for a pact with others based on strengthening the ‘Remain’ representation at Westminster.

The SDLP veteran was speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday after voting against the holding of an election with a handful of others in Parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Durkan said he believed the decision by Theresa May on Tuesday to trigger a snap election for June 8 was “an entirely opportunistic move.”

He said he believed the British Prime Minister had been tempted by recent polls which put the Conservatives well ahead of Labour in the opinion polls.

Mr. Durkan added that he believed the decision may also have been linked to the potential for cases to be brought over election expenses and the implications this has for the Tory party, including some within the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

“This is a reversal of position by her and it is obviously not the first, which raises the question over what she says and what you can believe.”

He said that the Prime Minister has previously come out with “meaningless phrases” such as “Brexit means Brexit” and accused Mrs. May of calling the election on a false premise that Parliament was somehow impeding progress on Brexit.

“If anything, Parliament has been more compliant, giving the divisions in Labour, with her shambolic Brexit than it should be,” Mr Durkan said.

“She has called it essentially as an election to reinforce the Referendum and in the North we should rise to that challenge.

“Whatever issues we will be debating- and there will be many- we should be looking at trying to reinforce the strong will for ‘Remain’ and retaining all the advantages of the European Union, even after Brexit.

Mr Durkan said the best way of doing that is to properly utilise the machinery of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr. Durkan said that his party would look at pacts, but would not be doing so along sectarian lines.

“We have never got into creating pacts in the past in terms of nationalists ganging up to keep unionists out, or visa versa. These sectarian pacts were never part of our approach.”

He added, however, that the SDLP have recognised it should look at the potential of answering requests from the electorate for a clearer choice in expressing a strong Remain view.

He cautioned however: “We will have to look at whether or not that is feasible on a cross party basis.

“There are more than two parties that have a view to Remain and who have a concern to maintain the best advantages of the European Union and the Good Friday Agreement.

“That is the basis upon which we want to look at things. It may not be feasible, but we think it’s worth exploring. I won’t pretend that is going to be easy.”

Mr Durkan confirmed that he will be putting himself forward for selection to be returned as a candidate in the forthcoming election.

Mr Durkan was elected Foyle MP in 2015 with 17,725 votes - almost 50 per cent of the vote. The turnout for the last Westminster election in Foyle was 52 per cent.