Non-party unionist candidate suggested for Fermanagh-South Tyrone – Allister

A proposal to agree a non-party unionist candidate to run in the Fermanagh-South Tyrone Westminster seat has been suggested.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he has been contacted by the DUP about the marginal constituency on Friday ahead of the July 4 poll.

At the last general election in 2019, there were just 57 votes between Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew and defeated unionist candidate Tom Elliott.

In the 2015 poll, Mr Elliott, a former UUP leader, became the first unionist to hold the constituency since 2001, before Ms Gildernew won it back for Sinn Fein two years later.

Stormont Assembly
TUV Leader Jim Allister (PA)

Ms Gildernew has ruled herself out of defending the seat because she is standing in the European elections for the Irish Midlands-North West constituency instead. Sinn Fein has not yet announced its candidate for Fermanagh South Tyrone.

On Friday, DUP interim leader Gavin Robinson spoke in favour of unionist co-operation and working with other parties in a bid to maximise unionist representation at Westminster.

However, UUP leader Doug Beattie has previously indicated he is not in favour of unionist electoral pacts.

The UUP candidate for Fermanagh-South Tyrone is set to be local councillor Diana Armstrong.

Mr Beattie told the PA news agency on Sunday: “The UUP came within 57 votes of beating Sinn Fein at the last Westminster election and therefore represent the best chance of returning an MP who will show up and represent constituents.”

Last week, the DUP and the TUV announced they would not run candidates in the North Down constituency in favour of independent unionist Alex Easton who is challenging the incumbent Stephen Farry (Alliance), and where former military leader Tim Collins is the UUP candidate.

General Election campaign 2024
DUP interim leader Gavin Robinson (PA)

On Sunday, Mr Allister said he has been contacted by the DUP about Fermanagh-South Tyrone on Friday.

He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme: “I think the best idea would be a non-party candidate who could embrace the support of all unionists. If that can be achieved, well and good, but that’s the vision and the mission at present.

“Whether or not it is obtainable remains to be seen because it only takes one of the three parties to say no.”

Mr Allister, has not indicated yet whether he will be standing in this General Election, also said his party will not support any candidates who back the Windsor Framework deal.

The North Antrim MLA said decisions are being made around candidate selections for the TUV and are set to be announced within the next week.

The TUV has also recently announced an electoral link-up with Reform UK.

The Richard Tice-lead party did not have enough time to register to run in Northern Ireland constituencies, but has pledged to fully support TUV candidates in the campaign, including with financial backing.