Unionist unity candidate declared in Fermanagh South Tyrone

We expected it at the weekend, but terms have been agreed that a single unionist candidate will run in Fermanagh South Tyrone. The candidate in question is the former Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council, Rodney Connor. Slugger understands he will take the Tory whip on all matters not relating to the constituency. At which point he reserves the right to vote as he pleases. He will not be a member of the Unionist and Conservative alliance, and in that sense it represents a technical breach of David Cameron’s promise to run in every constituency in the United Kingdom. In effect though it will make an easy saunter home for Michelle Gildernew pretty tight. Expect Sinn Fein to pressure SDLP candidate Ferghal McKinney to turn this contest into a classic sectarian headcount race, 1980s style. His people say, no, we will be running in all 18 constituencies. Now, we’ve heard that one before. Let’s see just who’s serious about post sectarian politics?

Update below the fold: Statement from Rodney Connor Update 2: Ferghal McKinney, the SDLP candidate is giving a press conference at 12 noon…

“Today I am announcing as a candidate for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. I want to be a voice for the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone at Westminster.

Through my work, over the years I believe that I have already demonstrated a proven track record of delivering in the constituency for people from right across the community. I know what Fermanagh and South Tyrone needs and I believe that I am well equipped to help deliver it.

Now more than ever it is essential that Fermanagh and South Tyrone has representation at Westminster. At a time of financial difficulties and recession it is vital that a constituency so far geographically removed from Westminster has its voice and influence maximised in the House of Commons.

While, if elected, I would sit as an independent, I am prepared to accept the Conservative Party whip. However on matters affecting Northern Ireland I shall vote on the basis of what I believe is in the best interests of the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.”

Commenting after a meeting of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone DUP Association on Thursday evening where the Party unanimously endorsed Rodney Connor, the DUP’’s Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster said,

“I am delighted by the news that Rodney Connor has indicated that he is willing to stand as an independent candidate in the General Election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. This follows many weeks of discussions and negotiations and represents a good and potentially historic day for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and for unionism.

When unionism is divided unionism is weakened. I have no doubt that Fermanagh and South Tyrone can set the example for other areas in Northern Ireland to follow.

The DUP has always made it clear that we are prepared to step aside in the event that an independent unionist candidate could be agreed. I have no doubt that Rodney Connor is such a candidate and I give him my, and my party’s wholehearted and unqualified support.

I have known Rodney Connor for many years and know him to be of the utmost integrity and of the highest character. I have no doubt he can galvanise the votes of those who want to see Fermanagh and South Tyrone represented at Westminster. The next few weeks will see Rodney Connor take his campaign to every part of the constituency. I will be delighted to be part of that campaign.

I hope that after May 6th Fermanagh and South Tyrone can again have its voice heard at Westminster. This would give an enormous boost to the entire unionist community.”

  • Lionel Hutz

    Billy Pilgrim,

    ‘If Connor wins the seat, 99% of nationalists in FST will blame the SDLP for the loss’

    Thats a nonsense. If SDLP get about 6000-7000 votes in F/ST then those voters will know the score. They will know that by voting SDLP, they are unlikely to to have a Nationalist MP in Westminster. But it might just be the case that SDLP voters dont want a Sinn Fein MP.

    Its a true in constituencies such as FST and West Tyrone, very few nationlists are hardcore voters of either party. Most float in the middle. Most have floated to SInn Fein as the best chance to have a Nationalist MP,or more accurately, to avoid a Unionist MP and others believe its more important to vote for a party that has a view on policies in the HOuse of Commons. If the latter group would have been annoyed at splitting the NAtionlist vote, they would be voting Sinn Fein already.

    Dont tarnish nationalists with the sectarianism Unionists are displaying

  • Cynic2

    Darksider

    Is that better politically than one who rarely seems to leave it except to collect the expenses?

  • Greenflag

    billy pilgrim ,

    Excellent post 24 above -on the nail . One slight but important correction

    ‘but we’re talking about eighteen Irish elections here.’

    Should be

    ‘but we’re talking about eighteen NORTHERN Irish elections here.’

    Nobody in the Republic cares whether Alan Shatter is Jewish or Trevor Sargeant is Protestant -that doesnt work in Northern Ireland nor can it ever . The very nature of the State mandates sectarianism and there is no way out of that bind except to ‘disband’ the State in it’s present format . And that is not going to happen any time soon .

    It could be much worse of course with contending political factions ‘shooting ‘ at each other . Mercifully NI appears to have moved past that stage of it’s history .

    Cameron must be rueing the day he was advised to make an electoral pact with the UUP . But that’s the Tories in Northern Ireland /Ireland historically . They never ever learn and won’t ever .

  • Greenflag

    lionel hutz,

    ‘Don’t tarnish nationalists with the sectarianism Unionists are displaying’

    The electoral ‘slogan ‘ for UCUNFERDOM ought to be

    ‘Never mind what I’m doing just listen to my words ‘:(

  • An Lorgain

    The oath taken in order to sit in Westminster should at least be changed/reworded in order for SF to take their seats but would they if that was to happen?

  • Lionel Hutz

    yeah they allow the oath or affirmation in court, why not an affirmation in Westminster

  • darksider1

    cynic2 If they are working for the people of the constituency then yes it is better. We have the system we have and it should be further reformed but surely it is better to be represented by someone than noone.
    I (and the rest of FST) am faced with choosing to give my vote on the basis, not of policy or even of sectarian tribalism , but on the basis of just wanting someone to represent me. I wish I was in a position to choose on the basis of policy.

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: If Connor wins the seat, 99% of nationalists in FST will blame the SDLP for the loss.
    For SDLP supporters it may well not be a loss at all. Because if SDLP supporters wanted Gildernew or any abstentionist as an MP they would have voted for her last time.
    We have heard a lot from SF supporters on this topic. Guess why!

  • Michaelhenry

    its just has well that the s.d.l.p is still standing in fermanagh and south tyrone,there few votes will now stay with mckinney instead of going to the unionist candidate, there is a silver lineing in every cloud.

  • BillyMena

    Breakdown of last two FST elections below.

    2007 Assembly elections (1st Prefs)

    SF 16,833
    DUP 11,838
    UUP 9,134
    SDLP 6,483
    Inds 1,245
    Alliance 521
    UKUP 388

    2005 General Election

    Sinn Fein 16954
    DUP 12162
    UUP 10534
    SDLP 8336
    Socialist Party 406
    Green 79
    Independent 115

    Assuming all DUP/UUP voters come out again for Connor (and I’d suggest that possibly even more will turnout this time with a reaslitic prospect of SF being ousted), SF needs to increase their vote by 33% to hold the seat. To do this, they need to maximise their vote (which looks tricky considering the total voters in last two elections is almost the same) OR take nearly 6,000 votes from SDLP, which at worse would totally wipe-out the SDLP vote or at best (to SDLP) would take 75% of it. Can’t see either of those happening, so Rodney Connor looks good for Unionists.