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Fermanagh and South Tyrone unionist candidates embroiled in war of words

Thursday, 16 February 2017

UNIONIST candidates in Fermanagh-South Tyrone have become embroiled in a war of words this week over the controversial decision by UUP party leader, Mike Nesbitt, to indicate he would be transferring his second preference vote to the SDLP.

DUP candidate, Maurice Morrow, has called on the UUP's Rosemary Barton, to clarify if she is supporting her party leader Mike Nesbitt's voting position or standing by the stance of her colleague, Danny Kennedy, highlighting it was the DUP Nesbitt turned to in 2015 to ensure Tom Elliott was elected MP, and not the SDLP.

Mrs Barton has accused Lord Morrow of making "cheap political attacks on fellow unionists" and claimed the DUP was "populated by stubborn and archaic representatives such as himself, who were responsible for the scandals, arrogance and incompetence".

Lord Morrow fired the first salvo early on Monday when Mr Nesbitt's comments had hit the headlines.

 "Mike Nesbitt's announcement that he is going to vote SDLP in preference to voting for other Unionist candidates is the clearest evidence yet that he is unfit to be a Unionist leader.

"In advocating support for the SDLP in preference to other Unionist candidates he is supporting Same Sex Marriage, and a united Ireland. He is advocating support for the leader of the SDLP who showed public sympathy with a dissident republican terrorist by carrying his coffin; and he is advocating support for a political party who want to see police officers and soldiers prosecuted, whilst terrorist receive an immunity," said Lord Morrow.

 "I challenge Mrs Barton, the Ulster Unionist candidate, to distance herself from the maverick and opportunist stance of her party leader and instead embrace the principled stance of Danny Kennedy. I further call upon Tom Elliott to clarify his position. Do these Ulster Unionists support the republicanisation of the Ulster Unionist Party?  Do they support the dilution of Unionist political and moral principles?

He added: "The Unionist electorate of Fermanagh South Tyrone deserve to know.  After all it was the DUP Mike Nesbitt turned to in order to gain the support that got Tom Elliott elected in 2015, not the SDLP."

 Ulster Unionist candidate, Rosemary Barton, said Lord Morrow should get back to talking about the issues that matter most to people in this election. 

 "I will take no lessons on my unionism from Maurice Morrow. The DUP, populated by stubborn and archaic representatives such as himself, are responsible for the scandals, arrogance and incompetence which have done more to destabilise Northern Ireland than anything else over recent months. The RHI debacle was just the latest in a long line of disgraces to undermine public confidence in our local institutions," she said.

 "If Maurice Morrow was not so busy trying to make cheap political attacks on fellow unionists, he would have maybe noticed that I had already stated that I was encouraging voters to transfer to other pro-union candidates. In fact, I even state that on my literature.

 "The Ulster Unionist Party won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone parliamentary seat back from the abstentionist Sinn Fein in 2015. This was achieved by cooperation with the DUP, but likewise they were only able to win East Belfast because of cooperation with the Ulster Unionist Party. 

 "I would urge Lord Morrow to actually get back to talking about the issues that matter most to people in this election - the corruption of public offices, the crisis in our health service and the pressures in our schools." 

Meanwhile, local UUP MP, Tom Elliott, has also reinforced his party's position.

"The Ulster Unionist Party in Fermanagh-South Tyrone has always recommended to give further vote preferences to other pro union candidates, this election is no different. We recommend to vote in that way after giving 1 to Rosemary Barton"

He added Mike Nesbitt made his personal view of vote transfer known, but made clear that it was not the party position and he wasn't making any recommendation to others.

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