Sunak announces July date for Westminster election
Sunak announces July date for Westminster election


There has been a strong welcome across Britain and Ireland for the announcement of a British General Election on July 4 by Rishi Sunak.

Acting early to avoid yet another Tory ‘heave’, the British Prime Minister ignored heavy rain and a loud left-wing protest to deliver one of the most inauspicious British election announcements in recent memory.

It had been rumoured for some time that Sunak was hoping to take advantage of a respite in dire political and economic news in a bid to avoid an electoral wipe-out for his party.

But the July date still came as a shock, eliminating any hope Tory MPs might have had for of a miracle u-turn in their political fortunes, and all but ensuring the next British government will be led by Labour’s Keir Starmer.

It places the election during the summer holiday season in Britain, when most students are away from home. In the north of Ireland, candidates will be forced to seek election in the middle of the sectarian marching season.

Of the 18 separate constituencies in the Six Counties, recent polls indicate that the DUP face the greatest challenge from the Alliance Party in three constituencies, Lagan Valley, South Antrim and East Belfast.

The election will take place the day after former DUP header Jeffrey Donaldson, who is facing a series of historical sex offence charges, will be in court for a hearing to establish whether there is sufficient evidence to send him to trial .

The Lagan Valley MP has already said he will not contest the General Election.

Setting out his party’s campaign, the DUP leader Gavin Robinson said that the Tory government is “fast running out of steam”.

Referring to Brexit, Robinson said polling day will provide the people in the Six Counties with “a clear choice as to who they think is best placed to represent them and deliver the best outcomes for them”.

Nationalists will be hoping that demographic change can help them to win a majority of Westminster seats for the first time, but could face a challenge by potential unionist election pacts in the constituencies of North Belfast and South Belfast.

Sinn Fein also face a major struggle to fend off the unionist challenge to its tiny majority in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, where its sitting MP Michelle Gildernew is competing for a European parliament seat in the 26 County election taking place next month.

Two sitting Sinn Fein MPs have previously announced they will not be contesting the election - Mickey Brady in Newry and Armagh, and Francie Molloy in Mid Ulster.

Sinn Fein’s leader in the North Michelle O’Neill said the Westminster elections would be an opportunity to send a clear message to the British government on the underfunding of public services.

Mis O’Neill said: “The Tory government has been a disaster for the people in the north – bad for the economy, bad for public services and bad for workers and families as the cost of living soared, putting them under pressure.”

She said voters could send a message that they want decisions about their life and future to be “made here in Ireland, and not in London”.

The leader of her main nationalist rivals, Colum Eastwood of the SDLP, said his party’s mission is to remove the Tories from power.

“It’s time to reverse the toxic legacy bill, it’s time to restore faith in the power of government as a force for good – it is fundamentally time for change,” he said.

The party leader said: “The best way to support that objective in constituencies across the North is to back SDLP candidates who are ready to turn up and vote the Tories down.”

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