Belfast Telegraph

UUP selects councillor Chris Smyth for West Tyrone by-election

by Cate McCurry

The Ulster Unionists have nominated Omagh councillor Chris Smyth to contest the upcoming West Tyrone by-election.

The West Tyrone seat has been vacant since Barry McElduff resigned in January.

He stepped down over a video he posted on social media in which he posed with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

Sinn Fein has selected Carrickmore solicitor Orfhlaith Begley to contest the by-election. The party is defending a 10,000-plus majority from the 2017 Westminster vote in the overwhelmingly nationalist constituency.

The Omagh town councillor said he accepted the nomination with "mixed emotions".

"I am immensely proud of the faith my party has put in me, but I am nonetheless disappointed that a lack of engagement from other parties has meant that a non-partisan, non-party, cross community candidate was not found, to demonstrate that the disrespect shown to victims of terrorism will not be tolerated.

“I was too young to remember the hope and optimism of the Belfast Agreement, but I know it was short lived. I firmly believe the political stalemate is destroying the country I love so much.

“The UUP stands for a unionism which embraces reconciliation, tolerance, partnership, respect and mutual trust and we offer an alternative to the perpetual brinksmanship, deadlock and inaction of the current two largest parties.

“It would be a huge honour to represent the area I was born and raised in.

"The people of West Tyrone both need and deserve to have a voice at Westminster and have been denied one for too long. If elected, I will be that voice.”

Party leader Robin Swann MLA said: “This by-election is taking place due to the complete disrespect shown to victims by the area’s previous Sinn Fein MP.

“I am confident that councillor Chris Smyth is an excellent candidate who possesses all the attributes necessary to represent the people of West Tyrone at Westminster with the dignity and respect that has hitherto been sadly lacking, and I look forward to joining him on the doorsteps in his campaign.” 

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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