‘LET’S TALK’: Is joint Unionist candidate to bid for Mid-Ulster MP seat?

MID-ULSTER MLAs say they are open to talks on putting forward a joint Unionist candidate to bid for the constituency’s Westminster seat.

DUP MLA Ian McCrea and Ulster Unionist Assemblywoman Sandra Overend say they are both willing to open discussions on the issue if their parties put them forward for the MP spot.

On Monday it was announced that Martin McGuinness is to resign his Mid-Ulster Westminster seat as part of a Sinn Fein shake-up to end double jobbing.

Mr McGuinness, an MP for this constituency for over 15 years, said he will now concentrate on his Stormont role as Deputy First Minister.

The Mid-Ulster MP will now apply to leave Westminster, which when complete will force a by-election - predicted to take place in the autumn.

And both local MLA’s say his resignation could open the door for what they called “real representation” in Westminster for the people of Mid-Ulster and are willing to “open discussions” on Unionist unity for the seat.

Speaking to the MAIL this week, Mr McCrea said: “I certainly think it’s about time we had someone to represent Mid-Ulster at Westminster, because lets face it, Martin McGuinness hasn’t done that.

“Whoever wins the Mid-Ulster seat, regardless of party, should be focused on representing the people of Mid-Ulster,” he said.

“We need to look at the fact of the matter - divided unionism isn’t going to win this seat.

“Unionists need to come together to get this Westminster seat. This is not about individualism, its about Unionism.”

Mr McCrea confirmed that he would be putting his name forward to his party to fight for the Parliament spot.

The DUP MLA continued: “I am open to having discussions on this and accommodate whoever wants to fight this as a joint candidate.”

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend, who told the MAIL that she is willing to ‘talk to anyone’ on the issue, said it was now time for Mid-Ulster to fight its corner in Westminster.

Mrs Overend said: “Mid-Ulster needs good representation in Westminster and the people of Mid-Ulster deserve to have an MP that fights their corner. This is a chance for this to now happen.

“Obviously the Ulster Unionist Party will have to decide who the candidate will be to go forward for the MP role but I am willing to talk to anyone on the issue.”

On Monday it was also announced that four other Sinn Fein MPs are to resign from their Assembly roles as the party seeks to end dual mandates.

On Monday party president Gerry Adams said each will stand down from the Northern Ireland Assembly where new representatives can be put in their place without further elections.

Mr Adams added that his party would continue to refuse to sit in Westminster, but wanted to avoid creating a string of electoral contests by resigning all five of its parliamentary seats.