‘Bring it on!’ - Battle for Foyle commences ahead of December Westminster election
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and a number of other challengers in Derry are expected to hit the ground running this week following confirmation that a general election is now certain to take place on December 12.
The SDLP will be battling to try and reclaim the Foyle seat currently held by Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion, whose historic victory in 2017 saw her unseat Mark Durkan, and whose party leader in the north Michelle O’Neill said recently that the election will be an opportunity to press forward for Irish reunification.
This time round there has been speculation that SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood will himself be put on the Foyle ticket, while Sinn Féin has already confirmed that Elisha McCallion will defend her seat. Elisha McCallion’s campaign team have already swung into action and have been busy erecting election posters in the city over the past 24 hours. The SDLP are expected to clarify their position today.
The DUP, Alliance, UUP, Aontú and People Before Profit are also expected to run in Foyle and announce their candidates over the coming days with a number of independent candidates also possibly throwing their hat in the ring to represent Derry.
Speaking following developments at Westminster last night, which saw Labour back plans for a general election for the first time, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA said that a December Westminster election will be a “defining moment for Brexit and every opportunity to defend the interests of people, businesses and communities in the North must be taken”.
He said: “For three years, the democratic decision taken by people in Northern Ireland to reject a border on this island, to maintain the free and frictionless relationship we enjoy with Europe and to sustain our fragile peace has been wilfully ignored by successive Conservative governments and by the DUP. The coming election is an opportunity to reject the politics of division and deadlock and defend our interests.
“This island’s destiny is being decided at Westminster. Like it or not, the only way to prevent the kind of outcome that would devastate our communities is to show up and vote it down. Our MPs have, with the exception of Sylvia Hermon, either facilitated this disaster or stood outside on the lawn shouting in.
“The SDLP is ready for an election. We are ready to stand up for people on this island when it counts and where it counts..... Bring it on.”
Mrs McCallion MP was selected at a party convention attended by Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill in Derry in September.
Speaking afterwards, Mrs McCallion said: “It’s an absolute honour to have been selected as Sinn Féin’s candidate for Foyle in the pending Westminster election.
“This is our opportunity to once again reject Brexit and Westminster chaos.”
Speaking at the event in Derry, Michelle O’Neill told party activists the pending Westminster election is an opportunity to press forward the momentum for Irish reunification.
She said: “In the last Westminster election, the nationalist people sent a powerful message by turning their back on Westminster and electing seven Sinn Féin MPs, including the historic victory of Elisha McCallion here in Foyle.
“We need to be ready to take whatever comes at us and defend those republican seats, and our anti-Brexit and pro-Irish unity mandate.
“We must argue the merits and popularise the strongest case for Irish unity, a Unity poll, and the new conditions presented by Brexit.“In this election we will give people a reason to vote, again rallying support for Elisha McCallion who has loudly championed the interests of Derry with an ambitious political agenda of effecting change.
“We always remain true to the community from which we come.
“This election will come in the midst of the most defining period in modern Irish republicanism and we must be the daring front runners who will achieve a unity referendum and make partition in our country history.”