Seven candidates to fight GE2019 in Derry

Sinn F�in's  Elisha McCallion and the SDLP's Colum Eastwood are the frontrunners ahead of December's election.
Sinn F�in's Elisha McCallion and the SDLP's Colum Eastwood are the frontrunners ahead of December's election.

Seven candidates will officially contest the general election in Foyle next month.

The names on the ballot paper were finalised on Thursday when the deadline closed.

The poll is widely expected to be a two-way battle between the incumbent Elisha McCallion of Sinn Féin and the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

However, four first-time local councillors fresh from impressive gains in elections to Derry City & Strabane District Council in May have also thrown their hats in the ring.

These are Rachael Ferguson (Alliance), Dr. Anne McCloskey (Aontú), Shaun Harkin (People Before Profit Alliance) and Darren Guy (UUP). Each hopes to carry career-best form from the local elections into the snap Westminster poll next month.

Gary Middleton, meanwhile, will be contesting his third Westminster election for the DUP on December 12.

Back in June 2017 Elisha McCallion became the first republican to be elected in a general election in Derry since Eoin MacNeill took the old ‘Londonderry City’ seat and went to sit in the First Dáil in 1918. It was a shock victory over the former SDLP leader Mark Durkan in one of the SDLP’s safest seats.

However it was also one of the finest of electoral triumphs with Mrs. McCallion polling 18,256 votes to Mr. Durkan’s 18,087 - a margin of just 169.

Mr. Eastwood is confident they can win the seat back for the SDLP and has signalled his intent by running himself. He has been buoyed by an endorsement from the ‘Our Future Our Choice’ lobby, a group pushing for another referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

He is currently a strong favourite with the bookmakers to be returned as MP.

Mrs. McCallion, however, insisted at the party’s Ard Fheis at the weekend that if people wanted Irish unity they should vote for Sinn Féin.

“We now need to see the Irish government and the British government coming on board and actively preparing for unity. As an MP, I along with other Sinn Féin leaders have regularly challenged successive British secretaries of state to announce a referendum on Irish unity in line with the Good Friday Agreement so we can have the proper, informed, respectful, mature and reasoned debate required ahead of such a poll,” she said.

Mr. Eastwood has framed an anti-Boris Johnson, anti-Brexit argument.

“Let’s send a message on December 12, that Boris, the Tories and the DUP do not speak for us. Send the SDLP to Westminster to fight for you, to fight against Brexit and to fight against Boris/DUP rule. We won’t let you down,” he said.