By Patricia Devlin
FRANCIE Molloy says planning, jobs, health care and farming are at the top of his campaign agenda in the run up to Mid-Ulster’s Westminster by-election.
The politician says planning is key to boosting Mid-Ulster’s economy along with farming which he says can be utilised to strengthen the constituency’s output to the province.
Speaking to the MAIL at his party’s selection convention meeting the former Torrent councillor and MLA says Sinn Fein will play on its strong connections to the area, which Martin McGuinness described as the most “politicised constituencies in Western Europe”.
“I think that Martin has actually set a very good precedent around all of this and what we have right across Mid-Ulster is a good group of councillors in the Torrent, Cookstown and Magherafelt,” Mr Molloy said.
“We are very strong, we have three MLAs and an MP, so I think that it gives us a great opportunity now to build on that and actually to start to develop further and work a cohesive approach to that and trying to, as we move into the RPA, coordination of the councils.”
Mr Molloy, who is currently Deputy Speaker in the Assembly, was first elected onto Dungannon council in 1985.
He has a strong civil rights background and he retired from the council in 1989 but was re-elected in 1993.
He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998, 2003 and 2007 to represent the Mid-Ulster constituency before putting his name forward for running for Mid-Ulster’s MP seat following Martin McGuinness’ resignation announcement in June.
The Deputy First Minister offered his backing to Mr Molloy, officially putting forward the 61 year-old.
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill seconded the proposal, and Mr Molloy gained unanimous support from members at the selection meeting held in Gulladuff.
“The one thing that has happened since Martin won the seat from Willie McCrea is that Mid-Ulster is now firmly on the map,” Mr Molloy added.
“It has been able to attract industry, business and the big issue for me is planning around Mid-Ulster to actually help industry to develop and expand.
“So I would see that role being key to the development of Mid-Ulster and to make sure that role of Mid-Ulster as the centre focus, is a very central location with good attraction. We’ve had the issue of Loughry and the development of that.”
“We’ve also had Michelle O’Neill transfer the land on the site of Tullyhogue. In Dungannon we have the O’Neill site which has now opened and we are starting to develop right across Mid-Ulster to co-ordinate.
“It brought a lot of jobs to Mid-Ulster over the last number of years and it’s important to try to build on that,” he said.
Referring to the Mid-Ulster Hospital, Mr Molloy said that the focus should be now to put “services back” to the hospital site.
“As many services as possible,” he said.
The MP candidate also said the farming community in Mid-Ulster could play a significant role in boosting the area’s economy.
“The big issue in Mid-Ulster is that it is very much a rural, farming community is actually trying to give that support to the farming community but the idea of bringing that together through cooperative processes where the farmers can become involved in and actually develop the role of farming.
“Not just on the lines of the farm producing material but actually how we can process all of those materials and how we can get better value out of them. And there are key roles that I think Mid-Ulster can play in that.”
Although no date has been set for the Mid-Ulster by-election, it will be held in the Spring.