ULSTER Unionist leader Robin Swann has paid tribute to his former MP Tom Elliott on a visit to Fermanagh, describing him as “a loss to Westminster”.
Mr Elliott recently joined the support team of the party’s MLA Rosemary Barton. The ex Fermanagh South Tyrone MP lost the Westminster seat he had held for two years to Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew in June’s snap general election alongside Danny Kinahan in South Antrim. This has left the UUP with no MPs in the House of Commons.
Speaking to the Herald in Enniskillen on Friday, Mr Swann said both of his former MPs had brought “a perspective of Northern Ireland to Westminster that hadn’t been heard in the last five years.”
He added: “I would have preferred to have seen Tom and Danny returned in the June general election which was a reaction to the previous Assembly election. Unfortunately they were the casualties and consequences of that. The feedback from both Labour and Conservatives MPs is what a loss they both are to Westminster. The critical thing was that Tom was representing the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone at the heart of Westminster and was able to put across the real concerns of constituents who in the face of Brexit were potentially faced with a new border.”
As the political stalemate continues at Stormont, Mr Swann, who is based in the rural North Antrim constituency, acknowledges that it’s time for Sinn Fein and the DUP to get the Assembly back up and running.
“The red lines that are preventing us from getting back in aren’t serving the people of Northern Ireland well and I don’t believe their electorate are applauding them at this moment in time for staying out. Health waiting lists are getting out of control and when we should be preparing for winter pressures we are instead cutting back, which is a major concern. Our school principals also don’t know what their budgets are and particularly in rural areas, people are really feeling the bite. ”
Mr Swann has said his party has no problem with the Irish language but members remain unconvinced of the need for an Irish Language Act.
“It’s a manifestation of how language and signage can divide communities rather than bring them together. As a party we had hoped as that we were moving away from marking out communities.”
Posted: 1:00 pm October 6, 2017
Secretary of State James Brokenshire has commissioned an independent review into whether MLAs should still receive their full salaries.