NON-VOTING unionists have been strongly critisiced by West Tyrone MLA, Tom Buchanan following a loss of DUP seats.
A lower turnout among the unionist population was blamed for the failure of a second DUP candidate to be elected in both the Omagh town and west Tyrone DEAs, and the loss of a seat for Charlie Chittick in Mid-Tyrone.
For the first time in years, the party fielded two candidates in two of the areas, with Elaine Thompson and Mark Buchanan together in West Tyrone and also Errol Thompson and Adele Crawford on the ticket in Omagh Town. Only Mark Buchanan and Errol Thompson were elected.
But the move has been strongly defended by Tom Buchanan, who issued a stinging rebuke to voters who failed to turn out. He also denied speculation of a row within the party over the decision.
“We have 1.5 quotas in West Tyrone and as a result it was only right to field two candidates here. Elaine Thompson was the sitting councillor and then Mark put himself forward. I had absolutely no influence in my son’s decision,” he said.
“Unfortunately on this occasion the unionist turnout in west Tyrone is down around 450 votes from the last council election and that has to be taken into account. If those people had turned out, then we would have been sitting with three unionist councillors in the DEA.
“There is a message in this for the unionist people who should know that if they had come out and voted then there would be a strong representation. They were made aware of the dangers of apathy and did not listen.
“I am sad that we have lost Charlie Chittick, who represented the party extremely well and again the reason for his failure was that the people of Mid-Tyrone simply didn’t turn out. The reality is that their failure to vote has handed a seat to Sinn Féin and those people now have to search their conscience. It’s a choice they will have to live with for the next five years.
“It would have taken a handful of more people to come out to get all our candidates elected,” he added.
Expressing his disappointment, Charlie Chittick, said he could still ‘hold his head high’ despite losing out. He vowed to return to stand again at the next election.
“It is a rare to have honesty in politics, but I have always tried to act with integrity in serving the people of mid-Tyrone and the DUP remains an honourable party.”