Foyle Ulster Unionist candidate Julia Kee has accused the DUP of attempting to deflect from the Renewable Heat Initiative controversy in its spat with her party over voting transfers.
Responding to comments by the DUP’ Gary Middleton in last week’s Sentinel that unionism could lose out altogether in the constituency if didn’t vote tactically, she said: “The Ulster Unionist Party is asking the public to vote for Ulster Unionist candidates on the 2nd March. After that we are then recommending that they transfer to the candidates they think they can trust to represent their community, their constituency and Northern Ireland.
“Gary Middleton is clearly desperate to deflect the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. I am concentrating on providing the unionists of Foyle with an alternative to the arrogance and incompetence that has characterised the DUP and Sinn Fein’s time in power.
“Let’s be honest, after the last election Gary and his colleagues were straight back into bed with Sinn Fein quicker than you can say R-H-I.”
Meanwhile, veteran DUP figure William Hay has appealed for unionist unity ahead of next week’s poll. Former Assembly speaker Lord Hay said: “The key to this election in Foyle for the unionist community is getting more people to vote on the day.”
Appealing to voters who may be tempted to stay at home to think again, Lord Hay pointed out that in May past the quota (votes required to ensure success) in a then six-seat constituency was 5,672 and based on a similar turn-out on March 2, the target could rise to 6,617 with only five MLAs to be elected.
He added: “It makes it more difficult to secure the only seat in Foyle. Unionists need to turn out in strong numbers to secure the seat. Nationalists are coming together, Sinn Fein and the SDLP are running only two candidates apiece, plus Eamonn McCann (People Before Profit). It would be a sad day if there was no unionist seat in Foyle. I am appealing to the unionist voters to get behind the only unionist candidate in Foyle who can win it, Gary Middleton.”
Lord Hay, election agent for Mr Middleton who secured a seat last time out, claimed that 500 second preference unionist votes went to the SDLP and People Before Profit in the 2016 poll.
Mr Hay continued: “The Ulster Unionist candidate has been very quiet on this, so is the UUP in Foyle. They have refused to ask their supporters to give their second preference to the DUP. There’s still time to say to transfer to ourselves.”