Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

DUP's Foster joins Tom Elliott as he submits nomination papers

Steve Aiken, Tom Elliott and Arlene Foster yesterday
Steve Aiken, Tom Elliott and Arlene Foster yesterday
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A rare moment of unionist unity saw DUP leader Arlene Foster turn up to support an Ulster Unionist candidate in next month's general election.

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Mrs Foster was in Omagh yesterday as UUP veteran Tom Elliott, the agreed unionist candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, handed in his nomination papers.

The DUP has stepped aside in the constituency and called on its voters to support Mr Elliott in next month's poll.

A unionist pact saw the former UUP leader win the seat in 2015, but Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew took it back two years later with 25,230 votes - 875 more than Mr Elliott.

Ms Gildernew is the bookies' favourite in the knife-edge contest.

Mrs Foster announced her party would not be standing in the constituency before Mr Elliott was even formally selected.

He had not initially planned to run but was convinced by party colleagues that he should stand.

Mrs Foster yesterday emphasised that she wants to see "unionists working together".

She said the DUP were backing Mr Elliott as only MPs who take their seats "will have any influence" at Westminster.

"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," the DUP leader said.

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

Mrs Foster added: "In this election every vote will matter. A strong, united DUP team elected by the people were able to deliver £1.5bn for hospitals, schools, roads and broadband in Northern Ireland.

"It is vital Northern Ireland continues to have strong voices who will go to Westminster to argue the case for Northern Ireland."

Earlier Mr Elliott pledged not to put up any election posters in the constituency's town centres.

He said it would not look right to have election posters fight for space with Christmas decorations ahead of December 12.

"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."

DUP nominee for Upper Bann Carla Lockhart also handed in her nomination papers yesterday as she bids to replace outgoing party colleague David Simpson, who stood aside after an extramarital affair.

At the weekend Ms Lockhart was subject to a number of disparaging posts on Twitter relating to her appearance.

The Co Armagh-based MLA later said she would not let the misogynist trolls behind the torrent of hurtful online abuse deter her from doing her job as a politician.

Meanwhile, Ian Paisley's nomination papers have been signed by a variety of figures, including from the worlds of sport and business.

His proposer is North Antrim businessman John Walker of the Country Garage in Ballymena. He is seconded by leading pro-life campaigner Bernie Smyth, also from Ballymena.

Mr Paisley said: "John is a long time supporter and family friend, he goes back decades with myself and my late father.

"Bernie is well-known as the Precious Life campaigner and has publicly endorsed me for my work opposing the liberalisation of abortion law in Northern Ireland."

Other signatures are sports commentators Jackie Fullerton and Liam Beckett, and Prof Roy Douglas of Queen's University, one of Northern Ireland's leading aeronautical academics.

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