Northern Ireland

Defeated EU parliament candidate Michelle Gildernew ‘no regrets’ about decision to stand

The former Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP was defeated in the election but spent last days of campaign mourning loss of 21-year-old nephew

Former MP Michelle Gildernew failed to win a seat in the European election
Former MP Michelle Gildernew failed to win a seat in the European election (Niall Carson/PA)

Michelle Gildernew, who decided against defending her Fermanagh-South Tyrone Westminster seat to stand in the EU elections, has said she has “no regrets” about making the decision despite the failure to be elected.

The senior Sinn Féin representative contested the European election in the Midlands-North-West constituency.

However, she lost out, coming sixth in the five-seater constituency following a marathon count.

Party colleague Chris McManus lost his European seat, while the party underperformed at the local election level compared to its performance at the last general election.

European Parliament
Sinn Féin's Chris McManus lost his European seat

“We have to look at what happened and dust ourselves down and get on with the job,” Ms Gildernew said, adding that she does not know her next move after being an elected politician for the majority of the last 25 years. She vowed to continue in politics.

But the focus is also on family as they continue to mourn the death of her nephew, 21-year-old Fiachra Ó Faoláin, she told BBC NI.

Fiachra Ó Faoláin
Fiachra Ó Faoláin

The body of the young man, from the Brantry area of Co Tyrone, was recovered from a lake in the Carricklongfield Road area of Aughnacloy on Sunday June 2.

On her future, Ms Gildernew said: “”I will take a wee while to think about it, I have things to do at home, not just the election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone but I have family issues to deal with as well and I have to focus on that for the summer.

“My nephew drowned last week and I need to go home and grieve so that is probably top of my list.”

She described her nephew as an “impulsive, creative, generous, funny guy, beautiful young man.”

On running two candidates in the constituency, Ms Gildernew said: “We cannot look at this election on its own.”

She noted party leader Mary Lou McDonald was criticised for not running enough candidates in the 2020 election.

“We had to reach higher and further, we had to be ambitious...I don’t regret running and I don’t regret us running two and, yes, we both failed in the end to get elected but we have doubled our MEP seats and there is a big decade ahead of us.”

Ms Gildernew will “bounce back” from her failure to win a seat in the European Parliament, party leader Ms McDonald said.

Sinn Fein’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, left, and vice president Michelle O’Neill
Sinn Féin’s president, Mary Lou McDonald, left, and vice president Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA)

Speaking in Belfast, Ms McDonald said: “I want to acknowledge Michelle Gildernew for taking on the European challenge. You haven’t heard the last of her, far from it.

“Michelle Gildernew fought an incredible campaign. She was battling right to the very end; she just missed out.”

Ms McDonald added: “I am also conscious that she and her family, in the course of this campaign, endured an unspeakable tragedy in their family.”