Constituency profile: Mid-Ulster
Can anyone get close to Francie Molloy in the nationalist stronghold of Mid Ulster? It’s highly unlikely.
The outgoing 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.
But 2017 hasn’t been a good year politically for the mother-of-three, who lost her Stormont seat in the Assembly election.
And, in a surprise move, the UUP chose young Cookstown councillor Mark Glasgow to be its Westminster candidate this time round. MLA Keith Buchanan, who breezed through the Assembly election, will be flying 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 to the Mid Ulster count 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.
Keith Buchanan (DUP)
Mark Glasgow (UUP)
Francie Molloy (Sinn Fein)
Malachy Quinn (SDLP)
Fay Watson (Alliance Party)