No decision yet on unionist candidates in Mid Ulster

Mid Ulster has not been included in any pacts so far, but could Sandra Overend run?
Mid Ulster has not been included in any pacts so far, but could Sandra Overend run?

The leaders of the two main unionist parties – Arlene Foster and Robin Swann – met on Monday to discuss election pacts for the upcoming Westminster elections.

But, it is thought the talks did not go well after the new Ulster Unionist leader branded comments from the DUP leader ‘arrogant and unhelpful’ in relation to who will stand in South Belfast.

Mrs Foster had pledged that her party would not compete with the UUP in Fermanagh South Tyrone, but said only the DUP could win the seat in South Belfast.

The absence of a pact means that in Mid Ulster, it is still unclear whether both parties will field a Westminster candidate, as they did in the last election.

In 2015, the UUP’s Sandra Overend took the largest share of the unionist vote, polling in second place (6,318), just ahead of the DUP’s Ian McCrea (5,465). After losing out in the last election, when the number of MLAs was reduced, she could be the natural choice, but the UUP said the only candidates on which they have decided, are the ones that have already been elected to those roles.

Francie Molloy topped the poll in Mid Ulster in 2015 with almost 20,000 votes, which, even if the two main unionist parties joined forces, they may not be able to beat.

Between then, the DUP, UUP and Traditional Unionist Voice took a total of 13,675 votes, while together Sinn Fein and the SDLP had 24,990 votes.

Tom Elliott will stand again in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

As for nationalist candidates in Mid Ulster, the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone has told the Mail that he will not be running, while Sinn Fein said they will be holding an election convention in the next week.