Sinn Fein expects to hold all its seats in election, McDonald says

Sinn Fein expects to retain its seven Westminster seats in the General Election, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Vice president Michelle O’Neill also defended the party not running in all constituencies across Northern Ireland, saying they had listened to people in terms of getting the “largest number of progressive candidates” elected.

Ms McDonald and Ms O’Neill hosted a candidate launch for the July 4 poll in Belfast on Friday.

The launch came after the conclusion of marathon European and council election counts in the Republic, in which the party suffered disappointing results.

She said: “What we are doing in Sinn Fein is something that hasn’t been done before. We have built a strong national political movement.

“We have built a politics right across the island that is about equality, prosperity, that is about progress, that is about Irish unity.

“We have had different growth spurts in that and different electoral cycles.”

She added: “I believe in terms of the seven seats we hold, we will defend those.

“We will look to grow our vote and always to advance.”

Michelle Gildernew from Sinn Fein listens to the results in Castlebar for the Midlands North West constituency in the European elections
Michelle Gildernew from Sinn Fein listens to the results in Castlebar for the Midlands North West constituency in the European elections (Niall Carson/PA)

The party said last month that former Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief Pat Cullen would instead be its candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Ms Cullen led nurses across the UK in unprecedented strike action last year.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone is one of the closest electoral races in the UK, with Ms Gildernew holding the seat in 2019 by just 57 votes.

Nurses call for emergency measures
Pat Cullen is standing for Sinn Fein in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Lucy North/PA)

On Ms Gildernew’s failure to win an MEP seat, she added: “I know where Michelle Gildernew will be for the next three weeks, right up until July 4, she will be walking hand in hand with Pat Cullen in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to get Pat elected.”

Sinn Fein, which has previously emerged as the biggest party in Northern Ireland in Assembly and local government elections, is not standing in four of the 18 constituencies in the region in the July 4 election.

It is running fewer candidates than the DUP, Alliance Party, Ulster Unionists or SDLP and is not standing in East Belfast, North Down, South Belfast and Mid Down and Lagan Valley.

“Particularly in terms of electing progressive candidates.

“I want to maximise across this election, across all the constituencies, that we have the largest number of progressive candidates returned.

“The voters will make their minds up.”

She added: “For us, in terms of the constituencies that we are standing in, we want to maximise our vote.

“We are putting up candidates that are hard workers because they will be on the ground day and daily, standing up for their constituencies.

“They have the benefit that no-one else has in terms of being part of a national team. Strong leadership across the board.”

Ms McDonald said the election is about “hope and optimism, strong leadership and positive change”.

She added: “It is about an inclusive, modern, forward-looking society. That is our vision and our mission in Sinn Fein.

“In this election people can vote about decisions about their lives and their futures to be made here at home. They can vote to support better funding for our public services and to reject years of Tory cuts that have targeted and hurt ordinary people.

“Positive change can only be delivered by working together in the Executive and the Assembly and this election provides an opportunity to send a clear message about the type of future that we want.”

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