The UUP’s candidate for Foyle in last month’s Assembly election has defended her party’s decision not to contest the forthcoming General Election in Londonderry.
Julia Kee, who has so far failed to gain election for the UUP, said she was undecided whether to vote “tactically” for the SDLP in Foyle in the General Election on June 5. She insisted she did not disagree with her party’s decision not to field a candidate but said she had yet to make her own mind up on how she will vote.
She has, however, ruled out even a “tactical” vote for the SDLP if a pact with Sinn Féin should come to pass.
Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Julia Kee said it was “a given” that many unionists in Foyle would vote strategically for the SDLP.
The Foyle Westminster seat has been won by the SDLP in every General Election since 1983. However, in the Assembly election this year, Sinn Féin outpolled their more moderate nationalist rivals in Londonderry for the first time in decades.
Ms Kee said her own vote “may” go to the DUP this time around .
“I found out on Friday but I think, you know, it’s not a bad decision”, she said of the UUP’s decision to stand aside in Foyle. “We want to return MPs to Westminster that’s going to work on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.
“We don’t want to return people that abstain and don’t take their seats. I think it’s bad form whenever we have parties saying they will engage in pacts in a Westminster election with MPs who will not take their seats if they get elected.”
Asked by presenter Anna Quigley whether she would tell her voters to back the DUP, Julia Kee said: “I am telling my voters, or the voters who would normally vote for me, to vote for who they think strategically will do the best job in Westminster.
“I am also saying that I am unsure how I will vote in the Westminster election. I may vote for the DUP.
“We have to understand that there’s a lot of unionists who vote for the SDLP in Foyle. You know, that’s a given. It is a tactical vote. People may vote tactically for the DUP because they want to show a strong unionist voice in the city and that’s fine. I’m fine with both scenarios. I’m not going to tell people how to vote. How I will vote, however, will depend on the stance of the parties going forward and their politics.”
Julia Kee said that if an electoral pact between the SDLP and Sinn Féin comes to pass, the moderate party of nationalism would lose her vote.
“I will not be voting for a party that, going forward, are going to make pacts with a party who are not going to take their seats,” she said. “I’m referring directly there to the SDLP. It looks as if its likely (that Sinn Féin and the SDLP may enter an electoral pact). I am unsure.”
She continued: “We’re thinking about Westminster here, we’re thinking about Brexit, we’re thinking about getting the best deal for Northern Ireland. That is what will be in my head when I go to the polling station. It’s not a referendum on Brexit but Brexit is happening and we need to negotiate the best deal. If I feel that the DUP will deliver the best deal for the people of Foyle, then that’s who I will vote for. In the same comparison, if I feel the SDLP, the Green Party or Alliance will deliver the best deal for Foyle, then that’s how I will vote. I think a lot of people are floating voters now - we are not voting down sectarian lines or religious lines anymore.”