Michelle Gildernew and Fermanagh/South Tyrone: “I am honoured to have been selected by South Tyrone.”

[But not Fermanagh and South Tyrone? – Ed]  No.  She tried that.  It didn’t work. So the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle invented a constituency for her.

Sinn Féin’s attempts to rewrite the past clearly have no time limit.  Witness the party’s shenanigans over candidate selection in Fermanagh/South Tyrone for this year’s Northern Ireland Assembly election.

The Ard Chomhairle was forced to re-run their selection convention in Fermanagh/South Tyrone following allegations of unaccounted-for votes which saw former-MP, former-MLA, and current Ard Chomhairle member, Michelle Gildernew, initially selected over sitting MLA, and notorious tweeter, Phil Flanagan.

In the re-run convention Michelle Gildernew was rejected as a candidate by her constituency party in favour of Phil Flanagan along with sitting MLA, and former Provisional IRA member, Sean Lynch, and local Councillor John “brains to burn” Feeley.

SF candidates 2016 Fernmanagh/SouthTyrone

The resulting all-male, Fermanagh-based, party ticket opened the prospect of the possibility, and perhaps probability, of the loss a third seat for the party that had only been secured by 62 votes in 2011.

Apparently reluctant to be seen to impose a fourth candidate in the area, especially a member of the party hierarchy, the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle soon revealed its cunning plan to ensure that former poll-topper, and Ard Chomhairle member, Michelle Gildernew was on the ballot. [Was a turnip involved? – Ed] Possibly…

The Ard Chomhairle decided that there would be another, special, candidate selection convention in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.  This time it would be for an new, fourth spot on the party ticket.  And it would be restricted to South Tyrone – which, of course, is not an Assembly constituency. [Partitionists! – Ed]

As UTV’s Ken Reid noted on 9 Feb.

UTV Political Editor Ken Reid said: “In December, there was a selection convention and Michelle Gildernew was picked with two others. Phil Flanagan, the sitting MLA missed out.

But there were alleged discrepancies in that so there was another convention and this time Michelle Gildernew lost out so I think that the Sinn Féin hierarchy decided that something better be done and it’s been decided there will be a specific convention in south Tyrone next week. [added emphasis]

“There’s a couple of aspects to this – there’s obviously the gender imbalance.

“The candidates are all male but I think that much more important for the Sinn Féin leadership is the fact that south Tyrone wouldn’t have a representative so they’ve decided to take this very unusual step of having a south Tyrone convention.

“I suppose the expectation is that Michelle Gildernew will come through successfully.

“We will have to see but there’s no doubt this was embarrassing for Sinn Féin.”

And as occasional Slugger contributor Chris Donnelly told the Irish News [10 Feb]

“Sinn Féin would have been favourite to take three seats, but the problem now is the shredding of the vote four ways,” he said.

“That means candidates will to a degree have [to] be at loggerheads, because they know that even in the most opportune circumstances all four can’t be elected.”

The special selection convention was held last night in South Tyrone, and Michelle Gildernew was the sole nominee – with out/in candidate, and sitting MLA, Bronwyn McGahan apparently staying out for good this time.

Michelle Gildernew special candidate FST

Following her South Tyrone coronation, Michelle Gildernew released a statement on the Sinn Fein website.

Ms Gildernew said,

“I am honoured to have been selected by South Tyrone. I have a track record of work and delivery for the people of this constituency over two decades .

“This constituency is very dear to me and I look forward to joining the strong  team of candidates from Fermanagh in maximising the Sinn Féin vote.

Of course, those other candidates were selected by the constituency party to represent Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The only question now is which of the others gets told to fall on their sword…

[#JoinTheRising? – Ed] Indeed.