Ex-MP Gildernew surprised at selection process

Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein

Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Fein


FORMER Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has opened up on her ‘surprise’ de-selection and then re-selection as an Assembly election candidate. 
Speaking last week to BBC programme The View the former agriculture minister explained the shock of not being selected at a convention meeting in January as one of the three candidates in Fermanagh South Tyrone, with Sean Lynch, John Feely and Phil Flanagan preferred. In a strange turn of events the previous month she had gained selection at the expense of Mr Flanagan before that meeting was deemed invalid.
“I was disappointed of course and I think people were shocked but that’s the democratic decision of the party and I think a lot of people were surprised I lost out.”
When asked why she lost out in January the former MP said there are a “lot more Sinn Fein members in Fermanagh rather than Tyrone”.
In the interview Ms Gildernew said many party activists thought it was unacceptable that the party had chosen an all-male line up who came from the Fermanagh end of the constituency and as a result she was added to the election ticket in a special South Tyrone selection convention less than two weeks ago. 
Despite being selected at the initial convention as one of three candidates Ms Gildernew insists the party was right to re-run the first selection convention. When asked, the former MP said everything was conducted above board.
“Things were run impeccably. I think there was a disparity in the figures.
“I think someone had accidentally got two ballot papers or something but I can’t fault it all, either in the December convention or the January convention.”
The war of words between candidates has already begun as on the same programme First Minister and DUP member Arlene Foster said she was baffled by the Sinn Fein election process in Fermanagh South Tyrone
“It was a rather strange selection process for Sinn Fein and they eventually got to the situation where Michelle was back in the race. It was an unedifying sight.”
In response Ms Gildernew says Mrs Foster should have done more for the area when she was Finance Minister. She said when the DUP MLA was in that role “very few jobs were actually brought to Fermanagh”.
However the First Minister dismissed that view, saying: “Of course we have brought jobs to Fermanagh.”
She added: “I look forward to bringing more jobs in the future.”
The BBC programme was also an opportunity for other candidates to voice their opinions ahead of the May election. Sitting UUP MLA Alastair Patterson, co-opted in January said he was hopeful his party could take two seats.
“We have a very strong team of councillors in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and we are looking to build on that. We are looking to try and return two Ulster Unionist candidates.”
The SDLP candidate Richie McPhilips said he was hoping to recapture the seat Tommy Gallagher held until 2011. He said the party was not worried about its political rivals, stating: “We are there to take the seat back irrespective of who is in the field.”

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