McElduff makes his mark in Omagh by-election
Barry McElduff, the Sinn Féin candidate in the forthcoming by-election for Omagh district council, has forced the Chief Electoral Officer to close an Orange Hall normally used as a polling station.
He petitioned the electoral office in Belfast, asking them to stop using Blacksessiagh Orange Hall as a polling station, as it is adorned by Orange regalia and Union flags.
``I wrote to the electoral office and pointed out that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, people were entitled to live free from sectarian harassment,'' said McElduff. ``I pointed out that nationalists, forced to cast their votes in an Orange Hall, were hardly free from sectarian harassment.''
McElduff told An Phoblacht that he ``is extremely confident of retaining the seat vacated by party colleague Cathal Quinn''.
McElduff explained that Quinn, who held the seat in the West Tyrone district electoral area, had to resign his seat due to work commitments and that despite attempts to have the seat filled by co-option, ``both unionist parties forced an unnecessary by-election''.
Pointing out that both the unionist candidates in the election are from the anti-Agreement camp, McElduff said it was important that nationalists come out in force and support Sinn Féin.
``On the figures, Sinn Féin can win this seat,'' he said. ``We took almost 25% of the votes in the 1997 election, so it is a strong basis to start from.''
McElduff also has a formidable support team that includes Pat Fahy, the well-known Omagh solicitor, as his election agent.
Outgoing councillor Cathal Quinn and Peter Kelly, the brother of independent councillor Patsy Kelly, who was shot dead by loyalists, proposed and seconded McElduff, respectively.
Patsy Kelly was shot dead in 1974 and his body dumped in Lough Eyes in Fermanagh. Many believed that Kelly was abducted and killed by the UDR and that a well known unionist elected representative was in the patrol when Kelly was killed.