Irish Republican News · April 19, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Nominations close in election contest

One hundred and five candidates have officially registered in the North of Ireland to contest next month’s election to Westminster.

Sinn Féin is standing candidates in all 18 Westminster constituencies, although it refuses to take its seats in the British parliament, where it currently has 4 MPs. It is also standing 183 Local Government candidates, more than ever before, and seeking to win seats on a number of local councils for the first time.

Fifteen outgoing Westminster MPs are defending their seats, while three political veterans are stepping down, including John Hume and Seamus Mallon of the rival nationalist SDLP.

Sinn Féin are hoping to take both men’s seats in Foyle and Newry/Armagh, while the SDLP are just as anxious to prevent such a loss.

The third retiring MP is Martin Smyth of the Ulster Unionist Party, a former head of the Orange Order, who is vacating his seat in the closley contested constituency of South Belfast.

Speaking from Derry, where Sinn Féin’s officer board gathered for a push on the Foyle constituency, Mr Adams said the election was “crucially important”.

“It is about the future - the type of Ireland we want to build. It is about the peace process and its success or failure. And it is about leadership - who is best to give the kind of leadership that will end conflict, build equality and make this century different from all those which have preceded it.

Mr Adams said his recent appeal to the IRA to stand down was “about leadership - giving leadership.

“The SDLP and DUP have dismissed this initiative as a con trick. It is not. I believe that this initiative can make the difference. The Peace Process is at a defining point. Irish Republicanism is at a defining point. Big decisions have to be taken. I am asking people to support Sinn Féin record on the peace process and our efforts to find a way forward.”

Journalist and civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann is to run for Westminster in Foyle, complicating a tight battle between Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin and the SDLP’s Mark Durkan for the seat once held by SDLP leader John Hume.

The veteran campaigner, who secured 2,257 votes in the 2003 Assembly election, is contesting as a Socialist Environmental Alliance candidate.

“We decided at the weekend that we should contest this seat because the campaign has been wearying, lack-lustre, predictable and unproductive from the other parties,” he confirmed.

* Several independent Irish Republicans -- including former Sinn Féin candidates, councillors and a former H-Block hunger striker -- are among the candidates in the local elections. Former Blanket man and hunger striker John Nixon is standing in Armagh City, while former Sinn Féin councillor, Martin Cunningham is seeking to retain his seat in the Newry and Mourne borough.

The other Republicans are former Sinn Féin candidate Aine Gribbon, a 39 year old mother of nine children running in Antrim Town and 35 year old mother of two Tish Murray. Last year, both women were part of a mass Sinn Féin resignation in the town. The other independent republican candidates include, Gary Donnelly in Derry, Paul Gallagher in Strabane, Kevin Barry Nolan in Fermanagh and Bertie Shaw standing in Larne.

* Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has said that she will be making a formal complaint to the Police Ombudsman about intimidation against the Sinn Féin election team by the PSNI police in Dungannon, County Tyrone.

She said party workers were “verbally abused” by PSNI members and two Sinn Féin members were stopped and held for a time,. She also claimed that a party official was followed home by the PSNI after completing election work in the town.

“ Local republicans are very angry at this sort of partisan political policing. It is obviously a deliberate attempt by the PSNI to try and damage the Sinn Féin election campaign in this constituency.”

* Thousands of voters in Antrim Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone and West Tyrone have not been allocated a polling station and will therefore not be given a polling card, it has emerged. Sinn Féin has urged those who have not received their cards not to assume they are unregistered and to exercise their right to vote.

* A group of SDLP candidates and representatives were forced to flee as they staged a photo call in front of a loyalist mural last week. A group of loyalists drinking at a bar near the photocal on the Sandy Row in west central Belfast began to shout abuse. The photo call came just an hour after the SDLP outlined its plans for getting unionist paramilitaries “off the back of people”.

* Former British prime minister John Major yesterday said he did not believe a change of government in London would have an impact on the North of Ireland. He said he believed that if Michael Howard was returned as prime minister, the talks would continue “unless something colossally stupid happens.” Polls indicate that Labour leader Tony Blair is on course for a third term.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News