Politicians in East Derry prepare for fresh Assembly elections

Stormont in Belfast, 
Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Stormont in Belfast, Picture By: Arthur Allison.

  • A return to the polls in March looks likely
  • The number of MLAs in East Derry will be reduced from six to five
  • Parties set to meet this weekend

Political parties in East Derry are gearing up for what looks to be a fresh election in March.

The Stormont crisis follows the continuing controversy around the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, and the fallout from Martin McGuinness’s resignation as Deputy First Minister this week.

If Sinn Féin fails to nominate a new deputy first minister by teatime on Monday, it means the Secretary of State James Brokenshire is obliged to call an election within a “reasonable period of time”.

If there is no resolution, it’s expected voters will return to the polls in early March.

It’s understood Sinn Féin will select their candidates for East Derry in coming days.

Sinn Féin’s only MLA in East Derry currently is Caoimhe Archibald. It’s understood she will put her name forward for re-election. Former Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O’hOisin, who lost out in the last Assembly election, has confirmed he’ll put himself forward for selection. Sinn Féin councillor Sean McGlinchey said he would not be putting his name forward.

Colr. McGlinchey said: “This is a major step into the unknown, but this is a defining moment in Irish politics with regards to power sharing. There can be no return to the status quo. There has to be change because it’s been a shambles for far too long.”

The ‘Journal’ understands members of the SDLP East Derry constituency are also set to meet soon. SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan - the party’s only MLA in East Derry - said he would his name forward for selection and is confident, if selected to run for the SDLP in East Derry, he’ll retain the seat.

DUP MLA for East Derry George Robinson - one of three DUP MLAs in the constituency - said he’s waiting until an election is called.

“I genuinely and honestly haven’t made up my mind. I haven’t made a decision, one way or the other,” said Mr. Robinson.

Independent Unionist and Justice Minister, Claire Sugden, said she’ll take time to discuss with family, friends and constituents “if I will put forward a candidacy.”

A fresh election will see a reduction in MLAs in East Derry from six to five.