A PACT between the SDLP and Sinn Féin in Fermanagh South Tyrone in the forthcoming Westminster election was ruled out by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell at the party conference in Belfast yesterday.

“We will stand candidates in all 18 constituencies armed only with our excellent candidates and our progressive policies,” Mr. McDonnell told delegates. He reiterated his determination that SDLP candidates would not “be based on sectarian, selfish interests.” Last month, The Impartial Reporter exclusively revealed that UUP Leader Mike Nesbitt had met with DUP Leader Peter Robinson to discuss the possibility of forming a unionist pact in Fermanagh-south Tyrone. Mr. Robinson has since mooted the possibility of an agreed unionist candidate running on the area in a bid to oust Michelle Gildernew (similar to Rodney Connor who lost by just four votes in 2010).

Ahead of the SDLP conference, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Martin McGuinness called on the SDLP to step aside in three constituencies, including Fermanagh South Tyrone. The UUP has also said the party would be willing to talk to the SDLP.

“We will not get distracted by the advances of either Martin McGuinness or Mike Nesbitt,” Mr. McDonnell told the conference in The Ramada Hotel, adding: "I don’t think the SDLP will dilute our policies or our values in favour of a pact.” Speaking to Impartial Reporter.com, Erne East Councillor Richie McPhillips referred to the UUP being open to talk with his party. He asks: "Why doesn't the UUP step aside for the SDLP?” A packed conference fringe meeting heard from West Belfast woman Mairia Cahill, who made allegations on BBC’s Spotlight programme four weeks ago that she had been raped by a senior west Belfast IRA figure in 1997, when she was 16. At yesterday's conference, she reiterated her story that, rather than allow her to report the alleged rape to the police, leading IRA and Sinn Féin figures tried to hold their own internal inquiry into her claims. She was accompanied by Director of Foyle Women's Aid Marie Brown. Ms. Cahill used the conference to call for a dedicated rape crisis centre in Northern Ireland and said she has concluded that she “will never get justice.” See Thursday's Impartial Reporter for full coverage.