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Sinn Fein due to settle on McElduff’s successor

Barry McElduff. MC 46

SINN Féin is expected to settle on a successor to Barry McElduff later this week.

A selection convention could take place as soon as this weekend to officially endorse the candidate who will almost certainly become the next MP for West Tyrone.

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Based on Sinn Féin’s recent efforts to redress the gender balance of its elected representatives, the new candidate is expected to be female and representative of the new and younger generation of members within the party.

Party rules also means the candidate must be a member of Sinn Féin for a certain period of time.

However it is understood that the party is unlikely to opt for one of its sitting West Tyrone MLAs and may in fact look beyond its current crop of local elected representatives.

Whoever Sinn Féin select is unlikely to face a challenge from a unity candidate. There had been speculation that a cross-community candidate representing victims of Troubles-era violence could stand against Sinn Féin, with a number of people expressing interest.

But DUP MLA Tom Buchanan, who was runner-up to Barry McElduff in last June’s Westminster poll with 11,718 votes, said he has yet to receive any approaches regarding a unity candidate.

“None of the other parties have come to me, nor anybody who might think they would be a potential candidate,” he said.

“If you’re going to have an independent candidate standing, that candidate must be able to attract a wide section of people.

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“You’re talking about a candidate that’s going to be taking the SDLP votes, the DUP votes, the Ulster Unionist votes, the Alliance votes, the Green Party votes.

“But nobody has ever come and spoken to me or my party about the issue,” said the DUP MLA.”

The veteran of four previous Westminster contests in West Tyrone, Mr Buchanan is expected to be the DUP candidate once again come March.

The SDLP has already launched its selection process internally, with Daniel McCrossan the firm favourite to be nominated.

The UUP, Alliance, Green Party and CISTA are all expected to nominate candidates.

A date for the forthcoming by-election has yet to be set. Sinn Féin’s abstentionism means the process is expected to involve the British Government’s Chief Whip Julian Smith requesting a writ from the Speaker in the House of Commons.

The writ is then normally drawn up by a senior civil servant at the Crown Office within the Ministry of Justice. The Secretary of State Karen Bradley is then expected to set a date for the by-election.

It is anticipated that the by-election will take place in March.

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