THERE was clearly no love lost between the two nationalist parties following a dramatic conclusion to the Fermanagh South Tyrone election count at the weekend, with Sinn Fein taking personal offence at Richie McPhillips’ victory speech.
With emotions running high after Mr McPhillips clenched the last seat, a seat which for most of the two day count had seemed to be certainly going SF and John Feely’s way, the newly elected SDLP MLA used his speech to hit out at what he called “dirty tactics” that had been used against him and his family during the election campaign.
“I stand here today to represent people with decency,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me where they go to church on Sunday, I’ll represent them one and all because at the end of the day, I know that I got votes from across the whole community and if anyone wants a definition of republicanism – republicanism of the right degree – you should be the unifier of Catholics, Protestants and others.
Sean Lynch, who was elected on the same stage of the count as Mr McPhillips on Saturday, denied any knowledge of the “dirty tactics” mentioned, and called the comments “disgraceful.”
While John Feely, still reeling from losing out on the seat by a mere handful of transfers, immediately hit out at the speech, stating Mr McPhillips had seemingly taken “a leaf from Tom Elliott’s speech in 2011” by implying SF supporters were “scum.”
“He basically got up and said he was going to represent the decent people of FST,” said Cllr Feely. “I’d like to make it abundantly clear that I think every single person who lives in FST is a decent hard working person.
“He was implying some of the people weren’t decent. He was implying the 19,000 people who voted SF, 40 per cent of the electorate, weren’t decent people. As I said, he took a leaf out of Tom Elliott’s book. He just wasn’t brave enough to say the word.”
Reacting to the SF anger, Mr McPhillips strongly denied slighting any voters: “At the end of the day, as a democrat, why would I slag anyone off for taking part in the democratic process?
“I did not nor would not slight anyone. Everyone has a choice to make as to who they vote for. I’m glad to think that we have the freedom to choose and I did not slight anyone in any shape or form.”
With regard the “dirty tactics” he referred to, Mr McPhillips added: “I will be going other avenues to try and address that. My mother-in-law always had a great statement about things like that, she said you’re as well to ‘put your foot on it’ and forget about it.
“Those people who set out to slander me in the way and means that they went about it in south Fermanagh, they’ve now got the answer from the people about how they felt how they were conducting themselves. I got my answer in the fact is the people of FST across the board were happy to have me as their representative.”
Posted: 9:00 pm May 10, 2016
Leo Varadkar discussed the current political impasse with Secretary of State James Brokenshire and DUP leader Arlene Foster.