DUP leader throws weight behind agreed unionist candidate in Fermanagh

By Rebecca Black, PA

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has thrown her weight behind an agreed unionist candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Both the DUP and TUV have stepped aside for Ulster Unionist candidate Tom Elliott in the constituency which he briefly held from 2015-2017.

A previous unionist electoral pact saw Mr Elliott win the seat in 2015 after it had been held for over a decade by Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew will be contesting the General Election in Fermanagh South Tyrone (John Stillwell/PA)

Ms Gildernew won the seat back in 2017 and is also contesting the General Election.

Mrs Foster attended in Omagh earlier as Mr Elliott handed in his nomination papers and emphasised that she wants to see “unionists working together”.

“Only MPs who turn up and take their seats will have any influence in the next Parliament,” she said.

“Sinn Fein want a mandate to do nothing in Westminster or Stormont and would take Northern Ireland in the wrong direction.

“I want to see unionists working together. Voters are telling us that they want to see their representatives working together to get things done. That is why, in the interests of co-operation, we are backing Tom Elliott.

“Fermanagh and South Tyrone has not been represented in the House of Commons since the 2017 election.

“In this election, every vote will matter.”

Earlier Mr Elliott pledged to not erect election posters in town centres.

He said he made the decision following a plea from traders in Omagh and Strabane ahead of the busy pre-Christmas retail period.

He has urged other election candidates in the Fermanagh South Tyrone constituency to follow suit.

“Last week traders in Omagh and Strabane appealed for politicians to leave the two town centres free of election posters,” he said.

“I think this is a very good idea indeed and, as a result, I will not be erecting any election posters in town centres in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

“This election will be taking place in the run-up to Christmas and town centres will be festooned with Christmas lights and decorations, and it would not be a good idea to have them fighting for space with dozens of election posters.”

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Clare Bailey has announced her party will not run a candidate in North Down.

It comes amid heightened speculation around the constituency after outgoing independent unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon said she will not stand in this election.

Lady Hermon had been a pro-Remain voice in the House of Commons.

Ms Bailey said her party is stepping aside to “maximise the pro-Remain vote in North Down”.

“Let’s remember that the majority of people across the constituency voted to Remain and they should have an MP that reflects a pro-European view,” she said.

“I want to see the new MP for North Down follow Lady Sylvia Hermon’s lead in defending our position in the European Union at a time when Brexit threatens our way of life.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to Lady Hermon for her courage and commitment to the people of Northern Ireland when Brexit plunged Westminster into chaos and political rhetoric became so toxic.

“The imperative is for us to Remain and work through the EU institutions to tackle climate breakdown, advance workers’ rights and protect our peace process.”

The Green Party previously announced it was stepping aside in South Belfast in support of the pro-remain SDLP candidate Claire Hanna, as well as in the East, North and West Belfast constituencies.