Local Election 2019

Constituency notebook: Sinn Féin fielding highest number of candidates in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council

The Omagh ward has the highest number of runners at 16 and the most Independents - four out of a total of nine - seeking election. Picture by Mal McCann
Mairead Holland

SINN Féin is again hoping to top the polls in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area.

The party holds the majority of seats - 16 in total - and is fielding the highest number of candidates in the May 2 elections, with 23 hopefuls.

The last election in 2014 saw very little movement in the status quo, with the only upset being SDLP gaining two extra seats from Sinn Féin and an Independent respectively.

This time around, 35 councillors will be seeking re-election, with 40 seats up for grabs across seven districts.

The number of candidates - 75 representing 12 different parties - has increased by eight from the last election.

With an estimated population of more with 113,000, the electoral area ranges from the bustling towns of Ennikillen and Omagh to the lakelands of Fermanagh.

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Brexit, and its associated uncertainty, is proving one of the biggest concerns for voters and, given the council's geography, it is hardly surprising.

Covering an estimated 1,100 square miles, parts of the council border the southern counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.

In Erne North, for instance, there are 15 crossing points alone between Fermanagh and Donegal.

Sinn Féin sits firmly in the Remain camp, of course. Its runners include former West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff, who was forced to quit after posting a controversial video to social media last year on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

In the video, Mr McElduff balanced a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head but denied he had intended to cause offence.

The performance of Aontú, the all-Ireland, pro-life nationalist party founded by former Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín just three months ago, will be an interesting one to watch.

Aontú counts Sinn Féin's former MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone Gerry McHugh among its candidates.

Mr McHugh had been an independent since quitting Sinn Féin in 2007.

The other Aontú hopefuls are councillor Rosemarie Shields, who currently sits on the council as an Independent after parting ways with the SDLP, newcomer Margaret Swift and Cathal McCrory, who has previously stood for Sinn Féin.

The Omagh ward has the highest number of runners at 16 and the most Independents - four out of a total of nine - seeking election.

They include Sorcha McAnespy, a member of Fianna Fáil's national executive, who had been expected at one point to stand as the Irish party's first candidate in Northern Ireland.

However, amid some confusion, the party decided not to contest elections in the north.

Other Independents are councillors Josephine Deehan and Joanne Donnelly, initially elected in 2014 as SDLP members, and Will Convey, also seeking re-election.

These changes and shifts in allegiance mean the council's make-up has changed slightly since the 2014 results and comprises the 16 Sinn Féin councillors, eight UUP, six DUP, five SDLP and five Independent.

Among the other parties fielding candidates this year, the DUP and UUP are on nine apiece, the SDLP eight, Alliance five, TUV three, the Green Party two and one each for the Democrats and Veterans Party, Cross Community Labour Alternative and Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance (CISTA).

Party politics aside, canvassers say many of the same issues are being raised on the doorsteps - no government at Stormont, MLAs continuing to be paid and "lack of leadership" by Secretary of State Karen Bradley as well as 'bread and butter' problems of rates, education, infrastructure and worries over the downgrading of health and hospital services, particularly in Enniskillen and Omagh.


Enniskillen (6 seats):

Matthew Beaumont (Alliance)

Paul Blake (SDLP)

Debbie Coleman (Green)

Debbie Coyle (SF)

Donald Crawford (TUV)

Keith Elliott (DUP)

Robert Irvine (UUP)

Tommy Maguire (SF)

Donal O'Cofaigh (Cross Community Labour Alternative)

Howard Thornton (UUP)

Simon Wiggins (DUP)

Erne East (6 seats):

Sheamus Greene (SF)

Noeleen Hayes (SF)

Brian McCaffrey (SF)

John McCluskey (Ind)

Gerry McHugh (Aontú)

Garbhan McPhillips (SDLP)

Thomas O'Reilly (SF)

Paul Robinson (DUP)

Victor Warrington (UUP)

Caroline Wheeler (Ind)

Erne North (5 seats):

Deborah Armstrong (DUP)

Diana Armstrong (UUP)

John Coyle (SDLP)

Siobhán Currie (SF)

Alex Elliott (TUV)

John Feely (SF)

Lewis Jennings (Democrats and Veterans Party)

Diane Little (Alliance)

David Mahon (DUP)

John McClaughry (UUP)

Erne West (5 seats)

Trevor Armstrong (Ind)

Alex Baird (UUP)

Anthony Feely (SF)

Adam Gannon (SDLP)

Carol Johnston (DUP)

Fionnuala Leonard (SF)

Chris McCaffrey (SF)

Bernice Swift (Ind)

Mid Tyrone (6 seats):

Richard Bullick (Alliance)

Sean Clarke (SF)

Sean Donnelly (SF)

Catherine Kelly (SF)

Pádraigin Kelly (SF)

James Managh (DUP)

Emmet McAleer (Ind)

Kevin McColgan (SF)

Bernard McGrath (SDLP)

Rosemarie Shields (Aontú)

Bert Wilson (UUP)

Omagh (6 seats)

Barry Brown (Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance)

Charles Chittick (TUV)

Will Convey (Ind)

Josephine Deehan (Ind)

Joanne Donnelly (Ind)

Stephen Donnelly (Alliance)

Anne Marie Fitzgerald (SF)

Susan Glass (Green)

Lee Hawkes (SDLP)

Sorcha McAnespy (Ind)

Marty McColgan (SF)

Barry McElduff (SF)

Jacinta McKeown (SDLP)

Christopher Smyth (UUP)

Margaret Swift (Aontú)

Errol Thompson (DUP)

West Tyrone (6 seats):

Mark Buchanan (DUP)

Glenn Campbell (SF)

Fia Cowan (Alliance)

Ann-Marie Donnelly (SF)

Frankie Donnelly (SF)

Mary Garrity (SDLP)

Stephen McCann (SF)

Cathal McCrory (Aontú)

Allan Rainey (UUP)


Party share 2014:

SF - 40.1 per cent (17 councillors)

UUP - 20.9 per cent (9 councillors)

SDLP - 14.7 per cent (8 councillors)

DUP - 14.6 per cent (5 councillors)

Ind - 4.6 per cent (1 councillor)

TUV - 2.2 per cent

Alliance - 1.7 per cent

UKIP - 0.6 per cent

Green - 0.6 per cent

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