Sinn Fein to run two candidates in hotly contested Upper Bann race

John O'Dowd is running again in Upper Bann

John O'Dowd is running again in Upper Bann

Sinn Fein have announced the names of the two candidates who will run in what is sure to be a hotly contested Assembly race in Upper Bann.

John O’Dowd, a former Stormont education minister, runs again, but he will have a new running mate after the withdrawal of Catherine Seeley.

Mr O’Dowd will be joined on the ballot paper by Nuala Toman, who was selected to replace Ms Seeley after her decision to return to a full-time teaching post.

Mr O’Dowd and Ms Seeley both secured election last May, but despite his high profile, Mr O’Dowd only just squeezed through.

Ms Toman, who is a Lurgan woman, previously stood as a Sinn Féin council candidate in Castlereagh South. She works in party president Gerry Adams’ office, spearheading Sinn Féin’s Uniting Ireland taskforce.

She previously worked in Educational Development in Queen’s University Belfast, and held senior research and policy positions in Glasgow Caledonian University.

Mrs Toman said: “I am honoured to have been selected by my colleagues to stand for Sinn Féin in Upper Bann in this crucial election, and I pledge to work hard for the people of this constituency.

“We know that the battle for two seats in Upper Bann will be a difficult one, considering the constituency’s reduction from six seats to five.

“We also know that if the electorate comes out to vote and show their anger over the recent RHI scandal, and over the ongoing contempt for equality and Irish identity demonstrated by the DUP, Sinn Féin can indeed maintain two seats and maximise nationalist representation in Upper Bann.

“At the very heart of this election is the matter of building an inclusive society. It is about delivering equality, accountability and respect. Sinn Féin will not tolerate financial scandal, incompetence, or the waste of public money.

“The institutions can only function with the support of the people and can only operate on the basis of equality and respect.”