Belfast Telegraph

Mid Ulster

Can anyone get close to Francie Molloy in what is now a nationalist/republican stronghold in Mid Ulster? It's highly unlikely.

The veteran Sinn Fein MP polled nearly half the votes cast in the constituency two years ago, and is defending a seemingly unassailable majority of over 13,000.

The absence of a pact between the two big unionist parties in this constituency means that both will field candidates, just as they did in the 2015 election when Sandra Overend of the UUP earned the unionist bragging rights by polling in second place with 6,318, several hundred ahead of the DUP's Ian McCrea.

2017, however, hasn’t been a good year politically for the mother of three, who lost her Stormont seat in the Assembly elections. And, in a surprise move, the UUP choose young Cookstown councillor Mark Glasgow to be their Westminster candidate this time around.

MLA Keith Buchanan, who breezed through the Assembly election, will fly the DUP flag.

Local councillor Malachy Quinn will have another outing as the SDLP candidate, having garnered over 5,000 votes last time, while Alliance's Fay Watson will be hoping for a four-figure yield – something her predecessor Eric Bullick failed to achieve in 2015.

Ms Watson, an advocate of women's breastfeeding rights, made headlines during the Assembly election when she was refused entry into the Mid Ulster counting centre in Ballymena because of her six-month-old baby son Charlie.

Common sense prevailed and she eventually got in – but Westminster's front door will be a more formidable obstacle.

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