Northern Ireland

Doug Beattie reveals opposition to Fermanagh-South Tyrone unionist unity candidate proposal

The UUP leader said the plan backed by the DUP and TUV would not be able to represent differing positions among the parties.

Doug Beattie said local councillor Diana Armstrong had already been selected as its candidate in the constituency
Doug Beattie said local councillor Diana Armstrong had already been selected as its candidate in the constituency (Liam McBurney/PA)

A unionist unity candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone would be unable to deliver a unified message, UUP leader Doug Beattie has said.

Outlining his rationale for opposing the strategy backed by the DUP and TUV, Mr Beattie suggested it would be impossible for one candidate to represent parties with very different positions on such key issues as the return of Stormont devolution and the deal the DUP struck with the UK Government on post-Brexit trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The UUP has already selected local councillor Diana Armstrong as its candidate in the constituency.

There was phone contact between unionist leaders on Friday scoping the potential for running a non-party candidate to take on Sinn Fein.

While the DUP and TUV support the strategy, Mr Beattie has made clear his opposition.

“There were no conversations around a unity candidate and that remained the case until Friday 24th May when a proposed unity candidate was put forward by phone call,” he said.

“This was without any detail on how they would breach the differences between the parties.

“Would this proposed unity candidate support the DUP and UUP position of entering the Executive? If they did, the TUV wouldn’t support.

“Would they promote the ‘Safeguarding the Union’ document as a good deal? If they did, the UUP wouldn’t support.

(PA Graphics/Press Association Images)

“Would they refer to the DUP as (Northern Ireland) Protocol implementors? If they did, the DUP wouldn’t support.

“The reality being any ‘unity’ candidate would be undermined with just a basic level of scrutiny. They would not be able to deliver a unified message.

“In 2019 the Ulster Unionist Party came within 57 votes of taking the seat and returning a pro-union MP.

“Announcing our candidate early, ensuring she is known and is making headway in delivering a pro-Union message gives many unionists the opportunity to affect change in FST.

“We have not asked any party to stand aside in FST, they have the right to stand if they wish.

“However, Diana Armstrong is the only realistic opportunity for a unionist to win in that constituency.”