Sinn Fein eye extra seat in Upper Bann
THE chairperson of Sinn Fein in Upper Bann has claimed that his party is perfectly placed to land a second Assembly seat in next May's elections at the expense of unionism.
With the current representation standing at two DUP, two UUP and one each for SDLP and SF, Johnny McGibbon claimed his party is perfectly placed to win a second seat.
Mr McGibbon said, "In recent elections Sinn Fin's vote in Upper Bann has increased and, when taken with the demographic changes in the make-up of the population of the constituency, it is clear that Sinn Fin is in a position to win a third nationalist seat.
"The political break-up of Upper Bann is approximately 50-50 and if the nationalist electorate turns out on Election Day, Sinn Fin will win a second party seat. That sixth seat is not a ‘unionist seat' as recent speculation in the media would have us believe.
"All six Upper Bann seats will be decided by the electorate. The call for unionist unity in the approach to the next Assembly election is about trying to keep nationalists and republicans out."
Mr McGibbon claimed that the debate in the media between unionist factions had more to do with serving self interest than serving the unionist electorate. "Recent Assembly votes on the holding of dual mandates show that some unionist MLAs have more interest in keeping their seats for their own monetary gain than they have for the interests of the unionist electorate. The calls from Unionists politicians for unionist unity are as much about ‘save my wage' as about saving the Union.
"The political landscape of Upper Bann has changed beyond recognition in recent years. It is no longer the unionist heartland it once was. The increased Sinn Fein vote, along with all the other votes cast, will decide which party will takes the seats."
Sinn Fein missed the sixth and final seat by a whisker in 2007, with the UUP's George Savage stealing in ahead of Dessie Ward (SF) and Junior McCrum (DUP).
Both unionist parties had three in the field last time, with the DUP having David Simpson (first count) and Stephen Moutray elected (Sydney Anderson was recently co-opted to replace Simpson). The UUP saw Samuel Gardiner and Mr Savage through, with John O'Dowd (SF) and Dolores Kelly (SDLP) completing the picture. Mr O'Dowd topped the poll.
The UUP have turned a deaf ear to DUP pleas for co-operation this time by choosing three candidates - Colin McCusker, Jo-Anne Dobson and Samuel Gardiner - with all the other parties still to declare their hand, although it is widely thought that Mr McGibbon will be O'Dowd's running partner next May.
Sinn Fein see North Belfast and Upper Bann as their next target seats, and it is anticipated they will move their big hitters to the constituency to get their supporters out.
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