Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew plans to stand in the Republic in the forthcoming European elections.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP and former Stormont agriculture minister is seeking her party’s nomination to stand in the Midlands North West constituency on June 7.
Sinn Féin’s Chris McManus is currently one of four MEPs representing the constituency, which stretches from Kildare to northern Donegal.
Fine Gael has two of the three MEPs’ seats, with the final one held by independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.
Sinn Féin plans to run two candidates in the hope of securing two seats.
It’s understood that if Ms Gildernew were to win a seat in the European Parliament, she would not seek the nomination to defend her Westminster seat.
Speaking as her plan to stand in June was unveiled, she said the EU was “crucially important to Ireland”.
“Ireland needs to be the fore in setting the direction of the European Union in the years ahead and I want to play a role in making that happen by bringing my experience of negotiation and dealing with EU institutions as a former agriculture minister to the job of standing up for Irish interests in the European Parliament,” she said.
“The European Union played a key role in ensuring Brexit did not create a hard border in Ireland and I believe the North’s future must be within the European Union, as part of a United Ireland.”
She said Ireland needed “stronger representatives in the European Parliament”.
“A strong Sinn Féin team will call out the EU when needed if it is not acting in the best interest of the Irish people or when EU office holders overstep their remit as the EU Commission president did in recent months,” she said.
The 53-year-old was first elected to the Stormont assembly in 1998 and became MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2001. She lost the seat to the UUP’s Tom Elliott in 2015 but regained it two years later. She held the seat in 2019 with a reduced majority of 57.
Slugger O’Toole deputy editor David McCann said: “Michelle Gildernew’s move is a surprise but also shows that Sinn Féin must feel that they are confident in their numbers in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
“She has held this seat for a long time with a considerable personal vote.”