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Runners' names emerge for general election votes battle locally

Thursday, 4 May 2017

WITH just over five weeks to go the political parties in the West Tyrone and Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituencies are beginning to roll out campaign plans for this snap - if rather unwanted - general election.

The SDLP's sitting MLA, Daniel McCrossan was first off the mark last weekend when he announced he would be contesting the Westminster race. Indeed he has raised a few eyebrows by asking sitting MP, Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty to stand aside and give him a free run at the seat.

"This election is about Brexit and about having a hard border across the island of Ireland. Now, more than ever, West Tyrone and the 66.8% of remain voters, need representation in Westminster. A hard Brexit will be hugely damaging for the constituency, from agriculture, to infrastructure and from health to education.

 "That is why I am calling on Pat Doherty and Sinn Fein to step-aside in this constituency to afford me an opportunity to represent the best interests of the people of West Tyrone by taking my seat and attending Westminster.

 "The SDLP is the only local party which has consistently voted against Brexit in local council, Stormont and Westminster. We are the only party that can credibly represent the views of the majority of people living here and attempt to stop a hard border," he said.

His announcement was closely followed on Tuesday by UUP newcomer, Alicia Clarke. She was unsuccessful in the recent Assembly election but her nomination is seen as a vote of confidence in the party strategy for the future.

There had been speculation that there may have been a UUP-DUP pact in this constituency but that now looks off the table and it is expected that the DUP MLA, Tom Buchanan, will also be selected to run before this week is out.

Sitting MP, Pat Doherty of Sinn Féin is also expected to run again. His selection was due to take place at the weekend but was postponed for logistical reasons and is expected to happen before the end of the week. This will be his fifth time to contest the seat. There has been speculation that the 71-year-old may stand down but the party is remaining tight-lipped about any potential changes.

No indications have been forthcoming from the Alliance Party, the Green Party or indeed any independents at this stage if they intend to put candidates forward.

Meanwhile in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency, the UUP's Tom Elliott has been confirmed as the sole unionist candidate, while Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew will attempt to win her seat back which she held between 2001 and 2015.

The deadline for handing in nomination papers has been fixed. They must be with the Electoral Office in Omagh between 10am and 4pm on May 8 to 11. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Monday, May 22, while applications for postal or proxy votes must be received by 5pm on Thursday, May 18. Polling day for the general election is Thursday, June 8.

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