It’s the old switcheroo… Sinn Fein should break the news tonight that Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein’s general secretary (stand by for more detail), is to stand for South Antrim rather than his heartland constituency in Foyle. There is no telling just what effects it is likely to have on the local constituency, where in November 2003 there was a three way fight to the finish between Sinn Fein’s Martin Meehan, Alliance leader David Ford, and the SDLP’s Thomas Burns. After a stormy meeting, it is understood the SDLP will be running two this time out. Stephen Elliott, a pro Grammar school campaigner is said to be running on a McCartney ticket, and could dent DUP plans to run three candidates: there may be some tensions between the Antrim and Newtownabbey ends of the constituency there. Only Sinn Fein and Alliance have single candidates. McLaughlin must be favorite to galvinise a vote that North Belfast Meehan could not. You might imagine his single candidate status should give Ford the edge over the SDLP.
A bold, masterly move at the end of what has been a turbulent week for Sinn Fein. And just before Christmas.