Belfast Telegraph

Agreed victims' candidate unlikely for West Tyrone poll

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill with runner Orfhlaith Begley
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill with runner Orfhlaith Begley
Michael Gallagher

By David Young

Omagh bomb campaigner Michael Gallagher has voiced his disappointment that proposals for an agreed victims' candidate in the West Tyrone by-election look set to fail.

Mr Gallagher, whose son Aiden was murdered in the 1998 atrocity, told the Belfast Telegraph that so far there had not been a positive response to the idea.

He said: "Everybody seems to want to take their own chances and do as they have done in the past.

"Everybody thinks that they can have a chance, but when you have a majority like Sinn Fein at the last election, I think that's a very difficult, uphill battle for any candidate."

Mr Gallagher said people in the constituency should have their voice heard at Westminster.

"I think that would send a strong message, but it looks like that will not be the case," he added.

Mr Gallagher's comments came as Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann called again for a "non-partisan" candidate to contest the election on May 3. The by-election was caused by the resignation of Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff, who was heavily criticised after posing with a Kingsmill loaf of bread on his head on the anniversary of the 1976 massacre of 10 Protestant workmen.

Mr Swann said: "When Barry McElduff resigned I stated that given the hurt caused to victims by the contempt and disrespect demonstrated by members of Sinn Fein, that the resulting by-election should provide them with a voice.

"It should ideally see a non-partisan candidate who could gain cross-community support, stand in the election to send a strong message that the disrespect shown to victims of terrorism will not be tolerated.

"I'm still of that firm belief.

"It is clear that Sinn Fein has learnt nothing from the appalling disrespect shown by Barry McElduff.

"Only last week they failed to condemn the banner put on display in Newry describing one of the IRA's most ruthless terrorists caught in possession of one of the murder weapons used at Kingsmill as 'our hero'.

"It seems that nothing has changed in terms of Sinn Fein's attitude towards victims of terrorism and for that reason I will continue to do what I can to facilitate a voice for victims in the forthcoming by-election."

But he added: "However, time is short, with nominations closing on April 10.

"If it cannot be achieved, we will have to consider other options."

Solicitor Orfhlaith Begley has been announced by Sinn Fein as its candidate, but won't take her seat if elected due to the party's policy of abstentionism.

The DUP said: "The DUP is aware of the forthcoming West Tyrone by-election and will have further comment to make in due course."

The Alliance Party candidate will be Stephen Donnelly, a student from Clanabogan.

No SDLP candidate has been announced, but West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan said that the selection process was under way.

Belfast Telegraph


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