Foster: Vote Dodds and unionist down the ballot to prevent Colum Eastwood regaining 'John Hume's seat'

Gregory Campbell, Arlene Foster, Diane Dodds and Nigel Dodds at the DUP European election manifesto launch.
Gregory Campbell, Arlene Foster, Diane Dodds and Nigel Dodds at the DUP European election manifesto launch.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called for the electorate to vote unionist down the European election ballot next week in order to prevent SDLP leader Colum Eastwood from achieving his aim of taking "John Hume's seat back" in Brussels and Strasbourg alongside fellow 'remainer', Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson.

Last week, as he officially launched his European campaign, Mr. Eastwood said he wanted to regain "John Hume’s seat in the European Parliament and deliver a second pro-Europe MEP" for the North.

However, at the launch of DUP candidate Diane Dodds' campaign to be re-elected, Mrs. Foster made a simple plea to the electorate and asked them to vote for Dodds first and then unionist all the way down the ticket.

She said: "Colum Eastwood sees this as his chance to retake John Hume’s seat alongside Martina Anderson.

"To those who fear casting their first preference for the DUP may cost unionism a second seat, they need not fear.

"Throughout this campaign we have been urging people to vote Dodds 1 and then for other unionists who want to see the Union defended and the referendum respected.

"After Diane was elected in 2014, it was twenty-two thousand of Diane’s transfers which secured Jim Nicholson’s election.

"So long as unionists vote Dodds 1 and then continue to vote for the other unionists, two Unionist seats will be safe."

READ MORE: Video: Colum Eastwood confident strong pro-EU stance will return him as 'remain' MEP

Although only 1,844 first preference votes separated Alex Attwood and Jim Nicholson and the SDLP were actually leading the UUP by 13,562 votes on the sixth count, transfers from the TUV's Jim Allister and Mrs. Dodds ultimately secured a second unionist European seat in 2014.

Mr. Eastwood, however, is hopeful that pro-European sentiment and transfers from the Alliance Party, the Greens, and Independents, can swing the balance in his favour next week.