Spiky exchanges in Belfast at UTV Westminster election debate

Brexit, a united Ireland and attitudes to republican and loyalist violence featured in the first main Northern Ireland Westminster television debate broadcast on UTV on Monday night.

The lively discussion saw some spiky exchanges on these issues and others including Sinn Féin’s Westminster abstentionist policy and how to reinstate the Northern Executive and Assembly after the votes are counted early on Friday morning.

Four of the five main party leaders participated – Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, Robin Swann of the Ulster Unionist Party and Naomi Long of Alliance – while the DUP was represented by its deputy leader and North Belfast candidate, Nigel Dodds, rather than its leader Arlene Foster.

During the debate, hosted by Marc Mallet, none of the leaders did or said anything that should have a radical bearing on the last few days of campaigning for the North’s 18 single seat constituencies.


The recording of the programme on Monday afternoon was briefly interrupted after Ms Long became faint early into the debate. She said afterwards that the heat in the studio together with her sadness at the unexpected death of Alliance Belfast councillor Mervyn Jones last week had left her feeling weak.