Sinn Féin is set to contest all 18 Westminster constituencies on 12 December after its efforts to form a pact of parties opposed to Brexit failed to get a positive response from other party leaders.
The party is aiming to unseat “an architect of Brexit” in north Belfast, but it also faces a battle to withstand challenges from unionists in Fermanagh-South Tyrone and from nationalists in Derry.
Standing alongside Sinn Féin’s North Belfast candidate, John Finucane, the party deputy leader Michelle O’Neill made clear their intention to target the constituency’s sitting MP, DUP hardliner Nigel Dodds.
“We believe there is a real opportunity in North Belfast to oust someone who has been architect of Brexit, someone who has actively worked against the interests of people who live here on this island, and John Finucane can provide local representation but also will reflect Ireland’s interests in all of this mess,” she said.
Asked about her party’s suggested pro-Remain electoral pact with other parties opposed to Brexit, Ms O’Neill said: “I have had conversations with the other party leaders in terms of how we can maximise the pro-Remain candidates returned in this election, but I suppose it will be for the electorate to pass judgment on that.”
Ms O’Neill said the election is “a welcome opportunity for the people of the north to have their say on the looming disaster of Brexit.
“Westminster is in chaos. It has no answers and no solutions. The Brexit debacle has shown that Westminster cannot, has not and will never act in the interests of the people of the north.”
Sinn Féin MPs have always refused to sign up to the oath pledging allegiance to the British Crown necessary to take up their seats. They have also repeatedly comdemned events at Westminster as focused exclusively on England’s interests.
Ms O’Neill said the election would be an opportunity to “reject the DUP” and the “destructive role” of Westminster. Nevertheless, Sinn Féin’s policy of abstentionism has come in for criticism from their rivals.