Republic of Ireland news

Sinn Féin to back unionist in Seanad by-election

Former Ulster Farmers' Union president Ian Marshall (centre) speaking at Stormont in 2015. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

SINN Féin has announced that it will back unionist Ian Marshall in this week's Seanad by-election.

Mr Marshall, who owns a farm near Markethill in Co Armagh, is an anti-Brexit campaigner and former president of the Ulster Farmers' Union.

Last year he was appointed business development manager at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University in Belfast.

In February, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar nominated him for the seat left vacant by the resignation of Labour Senator Denis Landy.

In a statement issued last night, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald announced her party will support Mr Marshall's candidacy.

"I have met with Ian on a number of occasions in recent weeks and I have been impressed by his views on Brexit and the potential impact Brexit will have on the island, north and south," she said.

"I believe Ian will be a strong independent voice in the Seanad; providing an anti-Brexit unionist perspective, which is a welcome addition to the political discourse surrounding the issue in the Oireachtas. Brexit affects people from all backgrounds and ways of life; nationalist, unionists and everyone in between.

"From his time as a farmer, as president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, and his current position at Queen's University, Ian is particularly qualified and experienced to advocate on behalf of farmers and the agri-sector; which faces massive challenges in the time ahead.

"Ian is a unionist. I am an Irish republican. As I have stated repeatedly, the Ireland I want to see is one where one can comfortably be Irish or British, both or neither. I believe Ian can bring a new and interesting voice to the discussion surrounding a new Ireland."

Votes in the election will be counted on Friday.

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