Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy talks jobs, Sinead O’Connor and the coming election

Sinn Fein's Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy wants the Department of Education to review CCMS proposals to close a number of rural schools
Sinn Fein's Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy wants the Department of Education to review CCMS proposals to close a number of rural schools

Jobs, improvements to Mid Ulster’s infrastructure, Sinead O’Connor and Sinn Fein’s mission to “neutralise the border” were just some of the issues Francie Molloy shared his thoughts on during a frank interview with the Mail.

And even though not far off retirement age, the current Mid Ulster MP said he has no intention of hanging up his political cap.

Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O'Connor

Instead, he told our reporter, he is looking forward to May’s election and is not worried for his seat - even if unionists do roll out a joint candidate.

The Sinn Fein stalwart, who has been in the game since the 1980s, seemed excited about times ahead - for Mid Ulster, his party and also for the island of Ireland.

Speaking from a position of strength as his party gathered “the highest number of votes” last year since 1918, Mr Molloy said he sees it as “an opportunity to bring together an all-Ireland structure”.

But talking about what he would like to do more locally, MP Molloy said: “One of the big issues is trying to bring jobs to Mid Ulster, and [getting] the infrastructure in place to start off with.

“Cookstown is a hub of industry and retail.

“Across Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt there is an infrastructure that we can build on.”

But he added: “Development hasn’t happened west of the Bann.

“We want to see the police college coming here [and] Loughry is a great asset, and that is something we need to recognise and develop.”

Commending local entrepreneurs who have built up world class businesses in the area, he added: “This is the hub of engineering right across east and south Tyrone, and we want to build on that so that Mid Ulster can be a capital of engineering across the world.”

But in order to do this, he said access to provisions like transport, gas and electricity need to be in place.

Something for which he has hit out at both Transport Minister Danny Kennedy and NIE.

“The fact that NIE were advising people to move out of the area, and set up a factory somewhere else was scandalous - The growth of Mid Ulster means that we need supply now.

Hitting out at Danny Kennedy’s plan to reduce bus services in some Mid Ulster towns, he added: “All of these areas are rural, and we need the infrastructure and facilities so people can actually move around, shop and go to work.”

And another issue he said he would like to tackle head on, is healthcare provision for people in Mid Ulster.

“We should be expanding the rural hospitals instead of trying to put everything into Belfast,” he said, “it doesn’t work.

“There is a real failure in the health service to provide - It should be a seven-day service and a 24 hour service.

“The question needs to be asked ‘how much time are doctors and consultants spending in private health care?’” - time he said should all be spent providing care for the public through the national health service.

Another thorn in the side of many Mid Ulster families, he said was inquests.

“Inquests shouldn’t be a question mark,” he went on, “they should be automatic.

“The British government shouldn’t be involved in trying to stall inquests - they should be open on it and let the people get the answers and the truth.

“There are several cases, particularly in this Mid Ulster area that should be investigated.”

And as for Sinead O’Connor and whether he would welcome her on board, he said: “Sinead didn’t start off well by first of all looking for the leadership to resign - sometimes you have to creep before you crawl.”