General Election 2017: West Tyrone set to be republican-led at the polls once again

Gortin Glen forest park to the north of Omagh
Gortin Glen forest park to the north of Omagh

Unionists in west Tyrone accept Sinn Fein is in a virtually unassailable position in this contest – but are using this opportunity to strengthen their hands for further elections.

Sinn Fein’s Pat Doherty won the 2015 Westminster seat with 43.5% of the vote and a majority of 10,060 votes.

According to 2017 DUP candidate Thomas Buchannan, voters are annoyed the UUP has not stood aside to allow him a free run as the sole major unionist.

“The DUP got almost three times the vote of UUP in assembly election here,” he said.

He gets significant nationalist votes because of the DUP’s conservative stance on moral issues, he says.

It is important to fight this contest “to continue growing the party in this area”.

But Ulster Unionist candidate Alicia Clarke, believes unionists want an alternative choice.

“We do not want a hard border” said the Brexit remainer.

“A single unionist candidate was still very unlikely to beat Sinn Fein.

“But with the possibility of another assembly election on the horizon it is important to keep building my profile.”

As for moral issues, she said that she is “more open” to having conversations about abortion and same sex marriage.

SDLP candidate Daniel McCrossan said that his party is the only one that can go into the House of Commons “and vote against Brexit and austerity”.

Wishing Pat Doherty a happy retirement, he nevertheless added that he had been “useless as an MP” over 16 years.

“Sinn Fein just coast along [at Westminster] and claim millions in expenses,” he said.

Candidates for 2017:

• Barry Brown, Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance

• Thomas Buchanan, DUP

• Alicia Clarke, UUP

• Stephen Donnelly, Alliance

• Ciaran McClean, Green Party

• Daniel McCrossan, SDLP

• Barry McElduff, Sinn Fein

2015 results:

Pat Doherty (SF): 16,807 (43.5%)

T Buchanan (DUP): 6,747 (17.5%)

D McCrossan (SDLP): 6,444 (16.7%)

R Hussey (UUP): 6,144 (15.9%)

S Donnelly (All.): 869 (2.2%)

C McClean (Green): 780 (2%)

B Brown (CISTA): 528 (1.4%)

C-L Leyland (Cons.): 169 (0.4%)

S-A White (Ind.): 166 (0.4%)

Electorate: 63,856

Turnout: 39,014 (61.1%)

Combined unionist vote: 33.8%

2010 results:

Pat Doherty (SF): 18,050 (48.4%)

T Buchanan (DUP): 7,365 (19.8%)

R Hussey (Ulster Cons. and Unionists): 5,281 (14.2%)

J Byrne (SDLP): 5,212 (14%)

M Bower (Alliance): 859 (2.3%)

C McClean (Ind.): 508 (1.4%)

Electorate: 61,148

Turnout: 37,632 (61.5%)

Combined unionist vote: 34%