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Peter Canavan ruled out as Sinn Féin West Tyrone candidate

Peter Canavan at the height of his footbaling career. Picture by Hugh Russell

Tyrone All-Ireland winning captain Peter Canavan has ruled himself out as Sinn Féin's candidate in the forthcoming West Tyrone by-election.

The 46-year-old PE teacher had been touted as a potential runner in the republican heartland where Sinn Féin secured a majority of more than 10,000 in last June's Westminster election.

A by-election in West Tyrone is expected to take place some time in March following Barry McElduff's resignation on Monday.

The former abtentionist MP quit ten days after tweeting a controversial video online in which he placed a Kingsmill loaf on his head.

The social media post coincided with the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre in which ten Protestant workmen were murdered by the IRA. Mr McElduff, who was suspended by Sinn Féin for three months last week, insisted he did not mean to cause hurt to the victims' families.

Yesterday, in line with Westminster procedures for departing MPs, the chancellor appointed Mr McElduff to be Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern. The speaker of the House of Commons will name a date for the by-election in the coming weeks.

However, the Irish News understands that Mr Canavan, who was Barry McElduff's proposer for last March's assembly election, will not be contesting the poll.

It came despite one bookie revealing that a number of punters had already backed the GAA star to win the seat. Boyle Sports had cut the odds on Mr Canavan overnight from 5-1 to 5-2.

Sinn Féin has three sitting MLAs in the constituency – Michaela Boyle, Declan McAleer and Catherine Kelly.

Ms Kelly was co-opted when Mr McElduff succeeded Pat Doherty as the constituency's abstentionist MP last June.

Last night, the husband of a woman killed in the Omagh bomb said he would be happy to stand in the by-election as a victims' candidate.

Kevin Skelton's wife Mena was among 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, killed when a Real IRA bomb devastated the centre of the Co Tyrone town in August 1998.

Mr Skelton told the BBC that he believed he would draw support "from across the political divide".


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