Michelle Gildernew’s election posters have appeared in Dungannon town centre despite other candidates pledging to keep town centres poster-free during the Christmas countdown.
The posters have been put up on lamp posts across Dungannon town centre ahead of the Westminster vote on December 12 and, so far, her posters are the only ones up in the town.
In the neighbouring constituencies of Mid Ulster and West Tyrone, political parties including Sinn Féin have embraced the season of goodwill by announcing a self-imposed moratorium on the posters which will leave the main streets free for Christmas lights and decorations.
However, Ms Gildernew, who is seeking re-election, has decided not to follow suit claiming “voters have the right to know who is standing for election”.
Mid Ulster councillor and trader in Dungannon, Walter Cuddy said he is disappointed by the move as the posters will take away the impact of the Christmas lights.
“As a trader, I thought it was a good idea to refrain from putting the posters up in the town centre. I do not think I remember an election in December before, but it is a pity because the High Street is already under so much pressure and the council spends a lot of money on Christmas lights.
“It is disappointing because other parties may look at it and say if Michelle Gildernew is putting hers up, then we will put ours up.”
Ms Gildernew’s party colleague and Mid Ulster candidate Francie Molloy said he did not want the election battle to dampen the Christmas spirit, while Sinn Féin’s candidate in West Tyrone, Orfhlaith Begley, removed her posters from Omagh after local traders appealed for all candidates to keep the town centre poster-free.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone candidate Tom Elliott also vowed not to put up posters in town centres.
But Michelle Gildernew defended the display, saying the election was ‘vitally important’.
“This election is crucially important for the future of the people of Fermanagh South Tyrone. We understand the concerns expressed, however election posters are part of the democratic process.
“Voters have the right to know who is standing for election. We are conscious that this election is taking place in winter and therefore it is important to place posters where voters can see them.”
She added, “As in all elections, Sinn Féin will start to take down our posters are soon as polls close on December 12.”