DUP split over Mid Ulster Assembly seat

Keith Buchanan polled respectably in the last council elections

Keith Buchanan polled respectably in the last council elections

A split within the ranks of the DUP in Mid Ulster looks certain to give rise to a hotly contested Assembly election with the party running two candidates.

The party is fielding Keith Buchanan, who will be battling for votes with sitting DUP member Ian McCrea come May 5.

Ian McCrea has held a Mid Ulster Assembly seat since 2007

Ian McCrea has held a Mid Ulster Assembly seat since 2007

Mr Buchanan is a brother of Mid Ulster councillor Wilbert Buchanan and contested the last council election in the Torrent area, polling a respectable 851 first preference votes.

A political source told the Tyrone Times: “The gloves will be off between these two candidates for every vote, it makes for an interesting and closely fought contest.”

It’s believed there have been “rumblings of discontent” within the rank and file of the party in the constituency for some time.

“This discontent ended up at DUP headquarters and because the election is proportional representation the party leadership agreed to let both candidates run in Mid Ulster to settle the matter,” the source continued.

“With any luck this will energise the whole unionist family in Mid Ulster and get them re-engaged with politics which hasn’t been easy in a constituency which is overwhelmingly nationalist.”

Mr McCrea, a son of the former Mid Ulster and South Antrim MP Rev William McCrea, has held the Mid Ulster seat since 2007 and will be out to defend the 7,127 votes he secured at the Assembly election in 2011.

The former Cookstown District Council chairman also has the added struggle to hold on to ground against Ulster Unionist Party candidate Sandra Overend, who will be out to capitalise on the DUP split.

Mrs Overend polled almost 900 votes more than Mr McCrea at last year’s general election pushing him into third position overall behind Sinn Féin’s Francie Molloy, a result which was no doubt noted by DUP strategists.

Keith Buchanan, from Rock, outside Cookstown, has been active in the DUP for the past three years and held the position of branch secretary since 2014.

A party insider said he is “extremely popular” within the Pomeroy community, particularly for his work with a number of local voluntary organisations.