Next month’s Fermanagh by election has already been highlighted on Three Thousand Versts alongside the attendant issue of ‘double jobbing’ which Arlene Foster’s candidature invokes. Foster previously resigned her council seat in order to concentrate on her roles as an MLA and a minister.
A year later and she is back, contesting a by election in which her main rivals will be Sinn Féin’s Debbie Coyle and UUP candidate Basil Johnston. In addition, Karen McHugh represents the torrid world of dissident republicanism, although a positive aspect is that she may pose a threat to Sinn Féin’s vote. Rosemary Flanagan stands for the SDLP and Alliance’s Dr Kumar Kamble completes the field.
Arlene Foster has made a rather belated and tactical appeal to her supporters to transfer their votes to the UUP candidate. Clearly she does not want the DUP to stand accused of losing a seat to Sinn Féin by fostering (pun intended) unionist infighting. In such a situation, given the strength of republicanism, it makes sense to transfer to other candidates which oppose SF.
However, the best value for unionists’ first preference vote in Enniskillen remains Basil Johnston who offers a genuine commitment to local government, rather than a mere tactical reacquaintance