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I won't fight Tom Elliott for seat, says Stephen Gault

Unionist unity hopeful for Fermanagh/South Tyrone wants UUP's blessing

By Liam Clarke

A former Ulster Unionist leader is the only obstacle to an agreed unionist unity candidate in the crunch Fermanagh and South Tyrone election battle, it has emerged.

Enniskillen bomb victim Stephen Gault - whose father Samuel was killed in the 1987 IRA atrocity - has been approached by Ukip and the TUV about standing in a bid to take the Westminster seat from Sinn Fein.

Michelle Gildernew won the last election after beating Rodney Connor - a unionist unity candidate - by just four votes.

But Mr Gault says he has too much respect for Tom Elliott, the UUP candidate, to run against him.

Fermanagh DUP MLA Arlene Foster said she would be "happy" to have a conversation with Mr Gault and the other unionist parties about the proposal.

Mr Gault said until he got "the full backing of all the parties" he couldn't comment further.

"I was approached before Christmas and I am honoured to be thought of - but until I get the backing of all candidates I won't stand," he said.

"So far only Ukip and the TUV have backed me, so I am waiting to see.

"Tom Elliott has said he was standing before Christmas and I would not go against Tom. If the UUP felt that Tom was the best man for the job, I would not go against Tom.

"I would back him if he stood, but if he didn't I would consider taking it further."

Mr Gault said he would like to think if he stood he could "increase the vote and hopefully take the seat".

"The main issue is that nobody has represented Fermanagh and South Tyrone in Westminster for the past 14 years," he said.

"We have a non-sitting MP so the people of Fermanagh South Tyrone are not being represented, so I would like to think I would appeal to both communities.

"I support the Union and I hope to be a unionist unity candidate in the future.

"I haven't spoken to the big parties yet."

Mr Elliott said he will support whatever decision the party makes.

"I have been selected by the (Ulster Unionist constituency) association and the party so it is entirely up to them," he said.

"It is not my choice at the moment, I will leave it to the constituency association and I will go with their decision."

Factfile

The 2010 general election race for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster seat was as close as it gets. Rodney Connor had the backing of the DUP and Ulster Unionists and received 21,300 votes. However, the incumbent MP - Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew - hung on to the seat with 21,304 after three recounts. Connor unsuccessfully challenged the result.

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