West Tyrone may keep its’ independents #ae11

West Tyrone’s independent MLA Dr Kieran Deeny may have decided to step down from the Assembly, but I can reveal that there will be at least one independent candidate standing in the constituency.

Speaking to Omagh District Councillor  McGowan on Wednesday afternoon for a story that ran in today’s Ulster Herald, he confirmed that he will “definitely” run for the Assembly.

A well known public figure in the Omagh District, McGowan has sat on Omagh District Council since 1985 and has spent over 40 years between the Fire Service and the Bus Service.

There will be no love lost between Cllr McGowan and the SDLP’s sole West Tyrone candidate Joe Byrne. McGowan was a member of the SDLP up until 1998, elected along with Joe Byrne to the 1996 Forum, however he parted ways with the party with some suggestion that he felt the SDLP had become too nationalist. He stood unsuccessfully in 1998 as an Independent Community Candidate, polling 1,269 votes.

Although Cllr McGowan states he will continue to lobby for an enhanced hospital for Omagh (a new £190 million project with no acute services), he confirmed that he will not run under Deeny’s Tyrone County Health Coalition banner. From speaking to some members of the coalition, McGowan should enjoy their support, but there is a lot of fatigue in the campaign and frustration at the inability of an independent to influence policy in any meaningful way.

In bowing out, Deeny has aimed most of his own frustration in the direction of the four main parties and their refusal at a leadership level to back the campaign for an acute hospital in Omagh. Local MLAs did back calls for the retention of acute services in Omagh, but Deeny wasn’t well liked among the main parties and his voice on the hill was typically a lonely one.

With the SDLP only fielding one candidate, McGowan’s chances aren’t great. He has a fairly solid base in Omagh, but the hospital issue won’t galvanize people the way it did in 2003. Deeny just about got in in 2007. However Sinn Fein’s decision to run four candidates may allow for a unlikely upset.

There is also a remote possibility that the Alternative A5 Alliance may field an Assembly candidate in the guise of Ciaran McClean, who ran as an independent in last year’s General Election.

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  • As Dr Deeney proved to be a beaten docket (literally) for me in 2007, I look on West Tyrone with deep suspicion.

    Deenys success (and his standing down) and quite possibly a hope of a knock on effect from the Independent success in the South….will prompt copy cats to step forward in a lot of constituencies….including those with an axe to grind.
    And theres a lot of axes in West Tyrone SDLP circles. The selection of just one SDLP person (there were three in 2007) and that person being Joe Byrne will do something towards binding up wounds in the constituency.
    The lesson from West Tyrone in 2007 for SDLP was not just about too many candidates..or even personal animosity, it was about the fact that they had a quota between them and the vote management was awful and the imperfect storm was complete by Deeney taking votes from everyone……except significantly Sinn Féin
    Deeneys success was based on SDLP incompetence and transfers from all over. An ex SDLP person wont do that.
    Rather Id liken him to the various RSF types such as O’Neill in 2007……his transfers took place after the three SF people were elected…..but basically went to SDLP. Likewise Gerry McGeough in FST or McGlinchey in East Derry. Essentially they were protesting against SF and their contribution was to give them transfers.
    I cant see the A5 being the “hospital” issue of 2011 and last year McClean got 500 votes which would be a poor platform on which to build.
    But if both men are standing for the Omagh Council…then the additional publicity of being Assembly candidates will do them no harm. And I suspect thats what is really all about.

  • son of sam

    The ironic fact about Assembly elections in West Tyrone is that the party most to blame for the loss of the hospital[Sinn Fein] benefited most from SDLP mismanagement of their vote in2007 and the leak of “respectable people” to Deeney. If these good folk return to the SDLP fold Joe Byrne may be able to reclaim the party seat.However it would be wrong to underestimate Paddy Mc Gowans determination to reach Stormont.It will be interesting to see the content of his manifesto!