Republican News · Thursday 18 May 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Erne East and Newtownabbey Sinn Féin challenge

Fermanagh farmer Stephen Huggett is the front runner for the Erne East by-election to Fermanagh Council on 31 May.

Huggett, who secured the Sinn Féin nomination in early April, just missed being elected to the Erne East ward in 1997 when he missed out on transfers from the SDLP.

The Erne East by-election was called after the sitting councillor, Patrick McCaffrey, resigned for personnel reasons. Despite attempts by Sinn Féin to have Huggett co-opted, given his previous near miss, the by-election was called after unionist Sam Foster objected.

Ironically, UUP man Foster is a pro-Agreement unionist while his party's choice for this election is anti-Agreement man Alan Latimer. The DUP, after some deliberations, nominated David Black. With Latimer also in the `No' camp of unionism, unionist voters have very little to choose from.

John Rooney is the SDLP representative, while Independent Tony Brady is also in the frame.

Stephen Huggett has a farm near Garrison and has been involved in republican political activity for many years. Born in London, he graduated in politics and economics from London University, was an executive member of the Connolly Association, and campaigned for the H Block prisoners and for the release of the Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4.

As a member of Sinn Féin, Huggett has campaigned on many community issues and is, presently, focused on the plight of farmers, who are facing one of the worst crises in farming in many years.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin candidate in the Newtownabbey by-election, Roisin McGurk will make history whatever the outcome.

She is the first member of Sinn Féin to contest a seat in the strongly unionist borough. Speaking to An Phoblacht, Kevin Vernon, McGurk's election agent, said the party has a realistic chance of taking the seat.

The election was caused by the death of former mayor of the borough Ulster Unionist Edward Crilly, but with Sinn Féin appealing to many nationalists who see the party giving a lead, there may well be a decisive swing away from the SDLP to Sinn Féin.

The party is also approaching the election in confident mood given its unprecedented success in retaining its seat on Antrim council in March, a result that shocked the SDLP.

Roisin McGurk, a mother of two, has lived in Glengormley, the main area of population in the electoral area, for 15 years.

She has long worked in the community in the area. She has a severely disabled son and has worked hard to promote the rights of the disabled in the area.

Accusing Newtownabbey council of discrimination against those living in the Antrim Line ward, Roisin says she intends to bring to an end the disparities which characterise the council's approach.

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