The Tories on FST:
“We recognise that Fermanagh and South Tyrone has characteristics that are unique within the UK. It has been without any democratic representation for the past nine years. It is the one constituency where there is currently an abstentionist MP, where a single cross community candidate could lead to the restoration of democractic representation at Westminster. In recent weeks and months there has been an upsurge of public opinion across Fermanagh and South Tyrone to find such a candidate. Rodney Connor has impeccable cross community credentials and has a first rate record of public service going back many years. He is hugely respected and admired on all sides. We therefore respect the decision of our Ulster Unionist colleague in Fermanagh to stand aside in his favour. We have had no discussions with the DUP on this matter at all. We are pleased by the fact that Rodney Connor has indicated that he will take the Conservative whip and support David Cameron, while always standing up for his constituents. If elected we will welcome him to Westminster.”
Update 2: And here’s McKinney’s statement:
“This election is about the economy, it is not about going back to the past. The announcement of a Tory-aligned unionist ‘unity’ candidate is a serious attempt to drive us back to the failed sectarian politics of the past. We are facing a general election which is likely to result in a hung parliament followed by massive job cuts in the public sector.
This constituency, which is already in turmoil over threats to jobs, is going to be hard-hit – in greater Dungannon for example over 60 percent of people rely on public-sector jobs.
“When the crucial vote on the cuts is called, Rodney Connor won’t be allowed to vote against job cuts in this constituency, and Michelle Gildernew won’t be there to vote one way or the other.
“So we have a simple message for the people of the constituency – why vote for a Tory candidate who can’t vote for you, and why vote for a candidate who won’t vote for you?
“This election should be about a united voice coming from the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone calling for a shared future. It is time to move on to achieve the shared future which we need in order to achieve the prosperity which we all deserve. There is only one true candidate in the contest and we are asking all who desire true unity to vote SDLP.”
Update 3: And current Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew calls for a united campaign against the ‘sectarian candidate’:
I have been the MP for all the people in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Rodney Connor wants to return to the days when nationalists in this area were unrepresented. We need to unite to ensure that this does not happen
The unionist parties have cobbled together a regressive deal based on a negative agenda. It is about base sectarianism, and the old agenda of division and inequality.
Sinn Féin represent something completely different. We are about the future, we are about the needs of ordinary people not the narrow requirements of the unionist parties in Fermanagh.
I remain confident that we can defeat the sectarian candidate and win this seat. Unlike Rodney Connor I have been on the doorsteps, I have been representing people across this constituency and we have been getting a positive feedback. So I am heading into this campaign confident that we can win and can retain this seat.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty