Michelle Gildernew has said fighting against Tory austerity and against Brexit will be her top priorities now that she has been re-elected as MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone.
Ms Gildernew was speaking on Good Morning Ulster this morning following a long night at the Omagh Leisure Centre, where once again it was a tight battle between the veteran Sinn Fein representative and the UUP’s Tom Elliott. She said she was delighted to have been re-elected, and thanked her supporters for their hard work over the past weeks.
Commenting on the fact Sinn Fein’s vote was down across the North, Ms Gildernew said it had been a difficult night “on the back of a difficult number of years” when Tory austerity had forced many to rely on foodbanks and when NHS waiting lists had become “obscene.”
“People are angry, and justifiably so,” she said.
Ms Gildernew noted that the people of Fermanagh South Tyrone were very anxious about Brexit and what now lies ahead in the wake of Boris Johnson’s resounding victory across the water. Regarding their plan to battle Brexit, Ms Gildernew said “we don’t have to be on the green benches to make our voices felt,” referring to Sinn Fein’s policy of abstentionism at Westminster.
“We know how difficult life has been the past number of years for border constituencies particularly, and we know how fearful people are of Brexit,” she said. “That’s the reason this election was called. We have to continue to negotiate not just in Dublin and London, but in Brussels and Washington. We have a big job of work to do.”
As well as Brexit, Ms Gildernew vowed to fight to resolve the current health crisis.
“[We are] trying to tackle the fact the Tories have swiped billions out of our budget and people can’t get hospital treatment, they can’t get GP appointments, they can’t get the most basic primary or acute care,” she said.
“We’re talking to the British and Irish governments, we’re trying to make sure that is reversed.
That whole project of taking money from vulnerable and marginalised people, that has to stop. That money has to be returned.”
When asked about the role of Stormont in tackling the current crisis, Ms Gildernew refuted the parties could have granted nurses pay parity with Britain before the collapse of the Assembly.
She continued: “We want to be back in the Assembly. We worked very hard and it wasn’t us who left the pitch two years ago.
“We want to be back in the Assembly, but to be honest, the Assembly, it will be grand if it’s up and running but if we don’t have money to fix the problems in our society then it’s doomed to failure.”