Sinn Féin not running in four NI constituencies

Sinn Féin has said it will not run candidates in four constituencies in Northern Ireland in the UK general election.

The Irish republican party will not contest Belfast East, Belfast South and Mid Down, Lagan Valley and North Down.

Sinn Féin’s director of elections Conor Murphy said they would encourage voters in these constituencies to support “progressive parties who will reject Tory cuts and Tory pacts".

"We need every constituency fighting back against that and we have decided to give the best chance in those four constituencies to those progressive and inclusive candidates who can win," he said.

"It was not an easy decision for Sinn Féin to make but we believe it is in the best interests of society here in the north."

The candidate announcement follows the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) announcing it will not stand in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency.

Instead, the DUP is endorsing Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) candidate Diana Armstrong.

The seat had been held by Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew, but she is not contesting the election on 4 July.

On Thursday evening, former nursing union chief Pat Cullen was formally selected by Sinn Féin to stand for election in the constituency.

Ms Cullen said she was "hugely honoured", adding that she was "determined to deliver for workers, families and communities across Fermanagh South Tyrone".

Pat Cullen, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), speaking to BBC News outside BBC Broadcasting House in London on 30 April 2023.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, stepped down to run for Sinn Féin [BBC]

Analysis: General election battles taking shape

Sinn Féin stepped aside in three constituencies in the last Westminster election in 2019 - and this time it is adding a fourth.

The move in Belfast South and North Down will boost the chances of SDLP’s Claire Hanna and Alliance’s Stephen Farry to retain their respective seats.

In Belfast East, DUP leader Gavin Robinson may now be under further pressure in fending off Alliance leader Naomi Long.

New to the list is Lagan Valley.

A former Sinn Fein assembly member last year said the party and the SDLP should step aside to help Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood.

With unionist parties also endorsing single candidates in target constituencies, the general election battle in Northern Ireland is slowly taking shape.

The DUP and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) have also stepped aside in North Down to support independent unionist Alex Easton running against the incumbent Stephen Farry, deputy leader of the Alliance Party.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson has held Belfast East since 2015.

Alliance leader Naomi Long, who is standing again in the constituency, came within 2,000 votes of Mr Robinson’s majority in the last election in 2019.

Former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has held Lagan Valley for 27 years, but is not standing again after facing historical sex charges which he intends to contest.

Sir Jeffrey has been suspended from the DUP and the party is instead running Upper Bann assembly member Jonathan Buckley in Lagan Valley.

Belfast South was won in 2019 by Claire Hanna of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

How many seats did Sinn Féin win last time?

In the 2019 Westminster election, Sinn Féin won seven seats.

The party does not take its seats at Westminster and has always held a policy of abstentionism when it comes to the House of Commons.

There are 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland.

The deadline for candidates to submit nomination forms in Northern Ireland to stand in the general election is Friday 7 June.

A full list of candidates standing in all 18 constituencies will be available on BBC News NI when nominations close.