Lines drawn in the Battle for Foyle
Three years on from the EU Referendum and almost three years on from the collapse of Stormont, this Westminster election is widely regarded as one of the most important of recent decades.
On a UK-wide level, the ramifications of the outcome will decide whether Brexit goes ahead and what type of future communities across what is now an undeniably fractured United Kingdom will face under either Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, or Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. The choice before the electorate across the water could hardly be more stark.
Locally too, the parties have been setting out their stalls, with seven candidates vying for the Foyle seat won by Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion back in March 2017 - a historic victory in what was at one time regarded as a safe SDLP territory.
There’s a lot at stake for SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood, who has been put forward to try to reclaim the seat previously held by John Hume and Mark Durkan. Mr Eastwood has been a vocal critic of Sinn Fein’s abstentionist policy, arguing that you have to take your seat to make a difference, particularly now in light of Brexit and the recently deadlocked parliament.
Sinn Féin are looking to retain the seat and for their part have defended their historic stance, arguing that they have been able to use their influence elsewhere and that Westminster cares nothing for the people here, They have pointing to the DUP being sidelined by the Conservatives in Johnson’s new Brexit ‘deal’ with the EU as evidence of this, while Elisha McCallion is championing a poll on Irish reunification .
Meanwhile Alliance’s Rachael Ferguson, People Before Profit’s Shaun Harkin, Aontú’s Anne McCloskey, and the UUP’s Darren Guy, all of whom were successful in being elected Councillors in the most recent test of the parties at the polls, are campaigning hard and are hoping to see their vote share increase, along with the DUP’s MLA Gary Middleton.
People Before Profit have focused on the Stormont impasse, austerity and its impacts as well as Climate action, while Aontú too has focused on the Stormont impasse, its opposition to abortion and has vowed that they will march to the Dail and demand to represent people there if elected.
Alliance meanwhile have called on people not to vote along traditional lines and have also stood on an anti-Brexit platform, ending austerity and the need for representation at both Stormont and in London.
If some of these other parties do manage to pull over some of the traditional voter base of the two biggest parties locally, it could be crucial to the outcome.
Undoubtedly the major issues on which this election is being fought are Brexit and the border and the situation at Stormont, but there are a myriad of other issues being raised and exercising minds locally include poverty, jobs, housing, Welfare Reform, infrastructure and the growing crisis in the Health Service.
By this time next week it is expected that the outcome of the vote will be known and it is very likely that the shape of the next government in Westminster will also be clear. However the chips fall, the effects of this crucial and unusual ‘Brexit’ election will be felt for years and generations to come.