There are five seats up for grabs in the Fermanagh South Tyrone (FST) constituency, and 16 candidates vying for your vote, the largest field of hopefuls ever seen at an Assembly election locally. Below is just a quick introduction to those who will be on your ballot tomorrow.
Rosemary Barton UUP
Having first been elected to the Assembly in 2016, and again in 2017, Rosemary Barton is a sitting MLA. A former maths teacher at Devenish College, she was previously a member of Fermanagh District Council. Mrs Barton said she is committed to “positive, confident and inclusive unionism” and is focused on playing her part in representing her constituents. A member of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) Committee at the Assembly, the Lack woman has been active on issues relating to farming and local health.
Tom Elliott, UUP
Former leader of the UUP and former MP, Tom Elliott was previously elected to represent Fermanagh South Tyrone at the Assembly in 2003, 2007 and 2011. When announced as a candidate in the upcoming May election, he said it had been a privilege to previously represent the people of the area.
Mr Elliott said he will focus on supporting the economy, including the agri-food industry, as well as on health and education issues and in providing support for victims of the Troubles. He said he will also focus on issues created by the Brexit Protocol and push for a collaborative approach to tackling those issues.
Deborah Erskine DUP
A former member of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Clabby woman Deborah Erskine was co-opted onto outgoing DUP leader and former First Minister Arlene Foster’s seat at the Assembly in October last year. A former journalist at the Fermanagh Herald and Ulster Herald, Mrs Erskine is a close friend of Mrs Foster, and has previously worked in her constituency office and as a DUP press officer.
Mrs Erskine sits on the Assembly Health Committee, and has said politics should be removed from the health service, and has called for a programme of reform rather than recrimination.
Paul Bell, DUP
Paul Bell, from Aughnacloy, is a DUP veteran who was in the news last year after sensationally quitting the party over the treatment of his friend and former First Minister, Arlene Foster.
Speaking at the time of Ms Foster’s resignation, Mr Bell had warned that thousands of votes could be lost to the DUP over how the Fermanagh woman had been treated. However, the former chairman of the local DUP constituency association rejoined the party after Jeffrey Donaldson became leader.
Alex Elliott, TUV
A cousin of the UUP’s Tom Elliott, Alex Elliott said he believes the province is in crisis due to a failure in unionist leadership, particularly surrounding the Brexit Protocol. The Ballinamallard man, who has run in local elections in the past, said this had led to a surge in support for the TUV, which he said offered a strong, traditional unionist voice.
A former member of the UDR and RUC, and recipient of the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery, Alex now works at the South West College. He is a member of Magheracross Parish Church and Knockmanoul LOL 443.
Jemma Dolan Sinn Féin
Having previously worked for Sinn Féin at the EU Parliament, and at home in Fermanagh South Tyrone, Jemma Dolan was first elected to the Assembly in the 2017 elections. She is a member of the All Party Group on Suicide Prevention, and is currently the secretary of the All Party Group on International Development.
The Belleek woman is from a farming background and a border area, so is interested in addressing rural imbalance and inequality as well as the impact of partition. Mr Dolan is the Sinn Féin spokeswoman on employment and workers’ rights.
Áine Murphy Sinn Féin
Lisnaskea native Áine Murphy has been busy since being co-opted to the Assembly last year following the retirement of veteran Sinn Fein representative, Sean Lynch. With a strong focus on community issues, Ms Murphy said she has first-hand experience of the issues affecting the lives of local young people, workers, and families.
Ms Murphy, who is 25-years-old, said her priorities will be driving more investment to the area and creating opportunities for young people, and will be focused on delivering on housing, jobs, Irish unity, and health, with a particular interest on the new health care centre for Lisnaskea.
Colm Gildernew Sinn Féin
Having been co-opted to the Assembly very early in the last term, after his sister Michelle Gildernew was elected an MP and had to vacate her seat, Colm Gildernew MLA is currently the chairman of the Assembly Health Committee. A former social worker in south Tyrone, he also previously ran an engineering business for many years.
A well known traditional musician, Mr Gildernew is a member of the Sinn Féin Árd Comhairle, and is interested in pursuing equal rights and opportunities, and strives for Irish unity.
Cllr Adam Gannon, SDLP
First elected to Fermanagh and Omagh Council in 2019, Cllr Adam Gannon is a science teacher at St Kevin’s College in Lisnaskea. Currently the SDLP spokesman on rural healthcare, Cllr Gannon is also the chairman of SDLP Youth.
Cllr Gannon said he wants to continue the work he has been doing as a councillor at the Assembly, and said he would work to help local businesses and town centres, tackle issues in the education system and in housing, fight for local health services, and provide a “real commitment” to tacking the climate crisis.
Matthew Beaumont, Alliance
Having run in the 2019 council and general elections, when he helped increase the local Alliance vote, Matthew Beaumont is running in the Assembly election on a platform of change. While he hails from England, he is married to a local woman and has been living in the area for many years, and has been working with local community groups.
Mr Beaumont aims to bring business opportunities and jobs to the area, and has vowed to stand up for health service, and said he wants to do everything he can to promote and bring tourism to the area.
Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, Labour Alternative
An active trade unionist and community campaigner, Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh is standing as a Cross-Community Labour Alternative candidate in the May election. Currently a member of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, as well as secretary of the Fermanagh Council of Trade Unions, the Belcoo man is a founding member of Fermanagh Save Our Services, which fights for local GP and SWAH services.
Cllr O’Cofaigh is running on a socialist, environmentalist, cross-community platform.
Kellie Turtle Green Party
Kellie Turtle has been a Green Party member and activist for around 10 years. A PhD candidate, she is a campaigner for women’s rights and reproductive justice, and has vowed to work to end austerity policies. Belfast-based, Ms Turtle’s husband hails from Fermanagh and she has strong connections in the county.
Having been selected by the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Greens, she said she will be focused on green issues.
Cllr Denise Mullen, Aontú
A member of Mid Ulster Council since 2014, Cllr Denise Mullen resigned from the SDLP in 2019 to join the all-Ireland, anti-abortion party Aontú. In October 2020 she was selected, unopposed, as deputy leader of Aontú. Cllr Mullen comes from a political background and her parents were well known civil rights activists. In 1975 her father Denis Mullen was murdered by the Glenanne Gang, and she has been active over the years in fighting for victims of state collusion.
Derek Backhouse Independent
This is the first foray into politics for Derek Backhouse from Ballygawley who is standing as an independent candidate.
The 50-year-old father of one said he wants to offer an alternative to the traditional green and orange politics in his constituency. Mr Backhouse – who also preaches as a pastor from home and online – said another priority is to address the growing mental health needs of local communities.
Emma DeSouza Independent
Emma DeSouza came to prominence when she took the British Home Office to court alongside her US husband, over the right to be accepted as Irish under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Standing as an independent candidate, Ms DeSouza said she wanted to deliver for a shared future through integrated education and enforceable human rights.
She also pointed to the “systemic under-investment, and rural inequalities” as a barrier to growth in the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
Emmett Kilpatrick (People Before Profit)
People Before Profit have put forward Emmett Kilpatrick as their candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the forthcoming Assembly election. In a recent social media post, Mr Kilpatrick hit out at “corrupted capitalism” which he claimed was “stripping all of our services, institutions and rights to the point now of destruction”.
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