Northern Ireland

General election 2017: Sporting personality lends a hand

Backing Image copyright UUP
Image caption Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey gives his support to Tom Elliott of the Ulster Unionist Party

There has already been a debate during the course of this general election about sportspeople and political endorsements.

Earlier in the campaign, Sinn Féin's South Down candidate Chris Hazzard was endorsed by GAA senior football manager Pete McGrath, raising questions on BBC's Talkback programme about whether sportspeople should give their backing to politicians.

Now, another high-profile sporting face, David Jeffrey, has given his support to the Ulster Unionist Party's Tom Elliott, who is facing a tough battle to retain his seat from Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew.

On Tuesday, the Ballymena United manager joined the Fermanagh and South Tyrone candidate on the trail and on Wednesday, the party issued a photo of the pair together, saying Mr Elliott was delighted to have the backing of the former Linfield manager.

Mr Elliott said Jeffrey "never gives up so it was great to have him come down and meet the team".

A full list of candidates standing in each constituency in the general election is available here.

'Vote with your heart'

The leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, Steven Agnew, has urged people to "vote with their heart" in the Westminster election.

He was speaking a day after heading out on the campaign trail to the constituencies of West Tyrone and Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

He said the party had chosen those constituencies because of the impact Brexit was likely to have there.

He also told the BBC he said the party was gaining "good ground" in the two areas, and denied suggestions that an electoral pact in Fermanagh and South Tyrone meant the result was a "done deal".

Image copyright Green Party NI
Image caption During his visit to Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Steven Agnew met members of Ulster Wildlife to discuss the group's concerns about Brexit

"I don't accept that - there's no doubt in a Westminster election with the first-past-the-post system, it makes it more difficult but that's no reason not to vote for what you believe in," said the party leader.

"Vote for what you do want - people should vote with their heart, for the party they believe in.

"Democracy is about demanding what you want - and you can only do that by voting for the candidate that you want."

TV debates keep coming...

Arguably one of the more interesting announcements of the campaign so far happened on Wednesday morning ahead of the BBC leaders' debate - with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying he will now take part in the event.

Theresa May has refused to take part in any debates, so Home Secretary Amber Rudd will be representing the Conservative Party. The Lib Dems, UKIP, SNP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru are also on the panel, which kicks off at 19:30 on BBC One NI.

Meanwhile, the BBC Northern Ireland leaders' debate takes place next Tuesday, 6 June at 21:00 on BBC One NI, which you'll be able to watch here.

Hustings with a difference...

There have been few election-related events in Northern Ireland throughout the course of this campaign.

This could be because of the surprise timing of the election, or simply that people here have had enough of elections?

However, Belfast's Clayton Hotel is hosting a hustings with a difference on Wednesday at 19:00.

What makes it stand out is that while representatives from the five main parties will take part in a debate, their answers will be translated in sign language by interpreters for an audience of deaf people.

It's been organised by the British Deaf Association - which says it will give the deaf community a chance to raise their concerns directly with the political parties.

If you're aware of any hustings events taking place across Northern Ireland between now and next Wednesday, get in touch with the team by tweeting @BBCevex with the hashtag #GE2017.

In case you missed it...

Elsewhere on the campaign trail on Wednesday...

BBC News NI's Campaign Catch-up will keep you across the general election trail with a daily dose of the main stories, the minor ones and the lighter moments in the run up to polling day on Thursday 8 June.

Hear more on BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra at 17:40 each weekday.

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