Belfast Telegraph

By-election paints UUP in corner over unionist unity

By Liam Clarke

Nigel Lutton, the united unionist candidate in today's Mid Ulster by-election, is well-known in the victims' sector, where all speak well of him.

His empathy and 'befriending skills' are highly prized. He gets on with people one-to-one. Perhaps with that in mind, he initially steered clear of media appearances.

The comment and criticism which that brought, at length forced him into the open.

His performance was not so good that it is likely to overturn Sinn Fein's massive majority, which has been in place since Mid Ulster's boundaries were changed in 1995.

It is an emblem of the division in Mid Ulster that he and Francie Molloy, the Sinn Fein candidate, have never met. At the count, he says, he will not shake hands with Mr Molloy, because of suspicions – aired under parliamentary privilege, but denied by Mr Molloy – about the murder of Mr Lutton's father, Frederick.

The big legacy of Nigel Lutton's  candidature will be that the argument for unionist unity at election time will now become unanswerable for the UUP in future contests. If they did not stand and promote their candidate in Mid Ulster, where a united unionist could not win anyway, what argument will they have in truly marginal Westminster seats?

Or in the Assembly elections, when the DUP has to stay ahead of Sinn Fein to secure the First Minister's post?

Belfast Telegraph


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