Assembly election 2016: What Mid Ulster’s candidates have to say

Mid Ulster Election 2016 - 12 candidates vying for six seats on May 5
Mid Ulster Election 2016 - 12 candidates vying for six seats on May 5

The one thing that is apparent in the manifesto of every candidate running for a Mid Ulster seat in the Assembly election, is that they can see what needs to be done.

From jobs, and rural development to providing better infrastructure, mobile and broadband access - they know what Mid Ulster wants and needs - and they are looking to you for votes, so they can set about getting it.

But how do you choose?

Many in Mid Ulster, as in every other part of Northern Ireland, will vote along the usual lines - to keep this one out, or get that one in. And then there are those, who won’t bother - because ‘what’s the point?’.

These are the people who decide how to spend your money, decide (or not) on emotive issues like gay marriage, abortion laws and where cuts to the budget should be made.

They govern healthcare, benefits, universities, farms and the environment, so now is the time to have your say.

Back to fight for another term, mother of three Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend, says her focus, if re-elected, will be “to create a Northern Ireland that is peaceful, prosperous, innovative, welcoming, stable and secure; the leading place in the UK to do research, build businesses, raise a family; and at ease with itself and its neighbours”.

With three candidates, Sinn Fein, has the biggest delegation and will be out to protect its mandate.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill says “A vote for Sinn Féin in Mid Ulster is a vote for a team of 18 Councillors, three MLAs and the MP”.

Highlighting the success of her decentralisation efforts with the Rivers Agency, she promises to keep moving government jobs out of Belfast, as well as pushing for the training centre at Desertcreat, and ensuring investment in the area to bring new jobs.

Her party colleague, Ian Milne, speaks of his affinity for the rural community and promises to keep fighting for better services, improved broadband, roads and energy infrastructure, as well as realising the area’s tourism potential with the Heaney Centre and the future management of Lough Neagh.

Also running for Sinn Fein, Mid Ulster Council Chair, Linda Dillon said she wants to push for the ongoing enhancement and redevelopment of our towns, and to build on the success of Neighbourhood Renewal projects while working alongside communities.

For the first time in over 10 years, the Democratic Unionist Party, is running two candidates in Mid Ulster.

Existing DUP MLA Ian McCrea, agrees there are challenging times ahead, but wishes to continue helping seniors, the weak and vulnerable, businesses, farmers and to seek the best education for children, whilst demanding a high quality health service.

His running mate, Keith Buchanan, says he will use his voice to deliver jobs, investment, a great education system and a dependable health service. He also voices his support for the firm party stance on abortion, same-sex marriage and religious freedom.

Building on his efforts to improve broadband coverage in Mid Ulster, SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone, said he hopes to return to his seat “to build a better future within the EU”.

He wants to see more investment in infrastructure to support our construction industry, and a first-class health service, and says the SDLP will upgrade the rural roads network, improve rural access to mobile and broadband, deliver increased student places and support families by increasing free childcare.

United in the view that Stormont, to date, has not delivered all that it promised for voters, the Alliance Party, Green Party and Workers Party are all vying for support to bring big changes to Northern Ireland.

Education, investment, better protection of our environment and a much improved healthcare system all feature among their election promises.

Running for Alliance in Mid Ulster, Neidin Hendron said: “This May, voters across Mid Ulster have a unique opportunity to vote for change.”

Hitting out at the cost of division across our society, Neidin said she wants to build an integrated society, where mixed housing and education are the norm so people can live and learn, work and play together.

Mental Health Nurse and Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, Hugh Scullion, is standing for a seat in Mid Ulster with the Workers Party.

Commending the work that has been done on Seamus Heaney Homeplace, he believes money spent on the arts delivers big returns for the economy.

He said he would also like to see better support for those suffering with mental health issues, and a benefits system that will encourage people to become involved and contribute to society and their community.

Green Party candidate Stefan Taylor said he would like to implement the Green New Deal home energy efficiency scheme - which would involve investing in our housing infrastructure and improving energy efficiency in homes, while creating 15,000 jobs and decreasing fuel bills and carbon emissions.

He would also campaign for better services for children, marriage equality, abortion reform, integrated education, political transparency and animal rights, not forgetting better care of the environment.

Going head-to-head for the alternative unionist vote, Mid Ulster’s TUV and UKIP candidates are both reading from the same page when it comes to Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK, but on the whole union leaving the EU.

TUV candidate Hannah Loughrin said she believes Mid Ulster is crying out for a better level of representation in the Assembly and that she has the skills to deliver for the people of this constituency and help with their day-to-day problems.

As someone who has grown up in Cookstown, she said she cares passionately about Mid Ulster and wants to see more jobs and better schools for the area.

“I want to see a Stormont which really delivers for people, not one which lurches from one crisis to the next,” she added.

“I want accountable government, not one where politicians are just out to feather their own nest (and) I want to see a Northern Ireland where our culture is respected, not despised.”

UKIP candidate Alan Day, promises that, if elected, he will oppose the liberalisation of abortion law in Northern Ireland, but on a softer note will seek a better deal for carers in the community who struggle physically, mentally and economically to look after sick or disabled relatives.

He said he would also like to campaign for UK-wide unionism including a ‘Celtic Coalition of Unionists’ comprised of UKIP MLAs, AMs & MSPs & Councillors from across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

He also says reform of the Northern Ireland Assembly is a must, including an official opposition and an end to mandatory coalition.

Now it’s time for you to decide.

How the parties polled in 2011

Sinn Fein: 21,033 votes, 49.2%

DUP: 7,127 votes, 16.7%

SDLP: 6,279 votes, 14.7%

UUP: 4,409 votes, 10.3%

TUV: 2,075 votes, 4.9%

Alliance Party: 398 votes, 0.9%

Elected

8,957 - Martin McGuinness, SF

7,127 - Ian McCrea, DUP

5,178 - Michelle O’Neill, SF

5,065 - Patsy McGlone, SDLP

4,409 - Sandra Overend, UUP

4,263 - Francie Molloy, SF

Eliminated

2,635 - Ian Milne, SF

2,075 - Walter Millar, TUV

1,214 - Austin Kelly, SDLP

933 - Hugh McCloy, Ind

398 - Michael McDonald, AP

243 - Harry Hutchinson, PBPA

241 - Gary McCann, Ind