Next month’s European elections will be a chance to register opposition to Brexit, the Sinn Fein vice president has said.
The final four contenders for Northern Ireland’s three seats in the European Parliament submitted their nominations in Belfast on Thursday.
Outgoing MEP Martina Anderson (Sinn Fein) was accompanied by her party’s vice president Michelle O’Neill as she submitted her nomination papers.
Ms Anderson said her campaign starts officially now: “Twenty-nine days to go for the people here in the north of Ireland to send a very clear message back to the EU that they don’t want to crash out of the EU or be dragged out of the EU.
“I am honoured to have been selected by Sinn Fein to stand in front of the people and hopefully get re-elected because, without doubt, without team Sinn Fein in the European Parliament, the Good Friday Agreement, in all of its parts, and Ireland would not have been one of the three priorities.”
Ms O’Neill commended Ms Anderson for “standing firm for the people who don’t want to be taken out of the EU against their wishes”.
“This election will be very much be about the Remain vs Leave vote, this will very much be an election once again for people to register that they do not want to be dragged out of the EU, that there is no good to come from Brexit, and they do not want Brexit foisted upon us.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood submitted his nomination papers on Thursday afternoon.
Next month’s poll comes as the UK Government remains unable to agree a deal to leave the European Union.
It had not been planned for UK voters to be electing a fresh batch of MEPs this year after the nation voted in 2016 to leave the EU.
The elections to the European Parliament are proceeding after politicians at Westminster and the European Council agreed to delay Brexit.
Northern Ireland’s three seats in Brussels have historically been divided between the DUP, Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists.
Ms Anderson and outgoing DUP MEP Diane Dodds will run again, while veteran Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson is stepping aside after decades in the European Parliament.
Jim Allister is also standing, having previously served as an MEP from 2004 to 2007, initially for the DUP before leaving to form Traditional Unionist Voice in 2007.
The ardent Brexiteer blasted the delay to Brexit, three years after the 2016 referendum, and described the UK electing MEPs in 2019 as “shameful”.
“We have arrived at this travesty and wider betrayal of Brexit by reason of the combination of the abysmal weakness of Mrs (Theresa) May and the bully boy tactics of the EU,” he said after submitting his nomination papers.
“Brexiteers must fight this election to win. That is why I have nominated to be a candidate in these elections.”
Earlier Green Party leader Clare Bailey submitted her nomination papers.
“People are fed up with the Westminster antics and we know that Brexit is contributing to the inability of the DUP and Sinn Fein to work together,” she said.
“However, this European election gives the people of Northern Ireland an opportunity to assert ourselves and remind the UK Government that we voted to remain.
“It gives us a chance to say we want to remain part of the European Union, we want to secure our rights and economic future and we want to reject the politics of hate and division.”
Voters in the UK will go to the polls on May 23.
The candidates running for Northern Ireland’s three seats in the European Parliament are Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson, the DUP’s Diane Dodds, Danny Kennedy (Ulster Unionist Party), Colum Eastwood (SDLP), Naomi Long (Alliance), Jim Allister (TUV), Clare Bailey (Greens), Amandeep Bhogal (Conservative and Unionist), Robert Hill (Ukip – Unionists for Brexit, Neil McCann (Independent) and Jane Morrice (not listed).