Sinn Fein has indicated it is “open to an arrangement” between pro-remain parties to oust DUP MPs.

Assembly member Conor Murphy made the comment as John Finucane was selected to contest North Belfast in the event of a general election.

The Newry and Armagh representative said they expect an election to be called before Christmas, and said his party is “open” to an arrangement between pro-remain parties in Northern Ireland to unseat DUP MPs.

Sinn Fein's selected election candidate in North Belfast John Finucane (centre) alongside MLA Conor Murphy (right)
Sinn Fein’s selected election candidate in North Belfast John Finucane (centre) alongside MLA Conor Murphy (right) (PA)

DUP MP Gregory Campbell accused Sinn Fein of “begging for electoral pacts” and “running scared of the people”.

Mr Finucane told the selection meeting at Belfast Castle on Sunday that it had the potential to be a “historic election” for Sinn Fein, and described North Belfast as a “key battlefield”.

Mr Murphy urged co-operation between parties to send a pro-remain message to Westminster.

“There is only one candidate can win this seat from Nigel Dodds, and that is John Finucane,” he said.

“There is only 2,000 votes in the difference in the last election – there are 5,000-plus pro-remain voters who voted for other parties in the most recent elections and not for Sinn Fein.

“A portion of those would secure the election of John Finucane, but more importantly send a very clear signal to the DUP and the leader of the DUP at Westminster (Nigel Dodds).

“I would appeal to all of those outside Sinn Fein, those pro-Remain progressive voters, that they put aside their own party political loyalties and vote for the only candidate that can take this seat away from the DUP, and send a very strong pro-Remain, progressive message to the British Government.

“So we would want to see an arrangement between all the parties, we are very much open to that type of arrangement between parties, to ensure that strong pro-remain voices, progressive voices, are elected to represent people.

“There is an opportunity to ensure all four MPs for Belfast do not belong to the DUP, aren’t promoting a hard Brexit and austerity policies in London on behalf of the people of Belfast.”

In the 2016 EU referendum, Northern Ireland as a whole voted remain by 56% to 44%.

In the constituency of North Belfast there was a narrow majority for Remain of 20,128 to 19,844 who voted Leave.

Mr Finucane said North Belfast represents an “opportunity to strike an almighty blow against Brexit by unseating an arch DUP Tory Brexiteer”.

“The numbers are there to make this happen, we can win this seat.

“In the last election, there were just over 2,000 votes separating me and Nigel Dodds,” he said.

“The DUP received 21,240 votes, the total vote for pro-Remain candidates was 24,336 – the numbers are there for a pro-Remain anti-Brexit candidate to win in North Belfast.

“This election has the potential to be a historic one for us and North Belfast is a key battlefield.”

Mr Campbell questioned the move, saying that other parties had opposed unionist electoral pacts in the past.

“The DUP has formed pro-union pacts in the past. We want to see unionism working together. That’s what our voters want. I support maximising the unionist vote.

“It is why we were able to secure 10 seats in 2017 and deliver £1 billion for Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party have always condemned our pacts.  Which makes the pleading of Sinn Fein MPs for a pact all the more intriguing.

“2019 has seen further setbacks for Sinn Fein electorally. They blamed the poor EU election result on many of their supporters voting for other pro-remain candidates.

“It was utter nonsense but typical Sinn Fein spin.

“Remain coalition or not –  voting DUP matters and voting DUP delivers.”