The fact remains, however, that, should he win, the constituency will be represented by a Conservative and Unionist MP, with impressive cross-community credentials. For some time before Connor’s candidacy was mooted it was known that Tom Elliott would stand only with reluctance.
O’Neill has already intimated that the new candidate actually offers a better match for the type of politics which UCUNF is supposed to be about
The DUP will try to trumpet some pyrrhic victory on the basis of ‘unity’. Actually what we have is a Conservative candidate who, for appearance sake, and to take into account local circumstances, has agreed to label himself an independent.
It is telling that Irwin Armstrong, the only long-standing Conservative on the New Force candidate list, is happy to endorse Connor’s Tory credentials. In a press release Armstrong commented,
I welcome the decision of Rodney Connor to run as an independent in FST, anyone who knows him will be fully aware that he is completely non sectarian and will attract votes from and represent all sections of the community in FST.
I am delighted that his political views are closely in line with mine and that he will take the Conservative whip at Westminster reserving the right, as all MP’s tend to do to, to vote in his constituents local interests.
He will make an excellent MP and will be a great asset to the Conservative Party as a full time Westminster MP in partnership with the other successful Conservative and Unionist candidates.Sinn Féin and the SDLP will attempt to claim a sectarian carve-up. But their previous enthusiasm for Connor's non-sectarian ethos is hard to reconcile with this new attitude.
This is a compromise. It’s an unpalatable compromise in some respects. And I wouldn’t argue that the ends justify the means. But, by fair means or foul, Fermanagh South Tyrone has ended up with a viable, Conservative, candidate after all.