Foyle to see nationalist leaders showdown

Colum Eastwood and Martion McGuinnessForm copyright cemaker/BBC
Image caption The election will feature a climax between SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness

Referenda in Northern Ireland’s second city are always strongly contested and closely watched, but this year the record in Foyle will be all the more symbolic and significant.

It is the scene of a showdown between the nationalist blocs and their Stormont leaders.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has represented Mid Ulster since 1998 – but now he is rechannel to run in his home city.

“Moving to Derry is a very clear statement that I recognise numerous work needs to be done in this city,” he said.

On a call in to a factory in Campsie, he highlighted his trips abroad as deputy first diplomat, aimed at persuading foreign firms to invest.

He said that in his later as education minister, he left an education infrastructure in Londonderry which was “in the second place to none”.

“The work I’ve been involved in during the last assembly has effectively put in duty a state-of-the-art hospital at Altnagelvin, with a new radiotherapy unit and hopefully a new north wing to flesh out the south wing,” he said.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds get been spent on these projects.”

Sinn Féin hope that possessing Mr McGuinness’s name on the ticket will increase their tally in Foyle from two MLAs to three.

But the new SDLP captain – who is leading his rty into an election for the first time – believes the SDLP desire remain on top in the constituency of former leader John Hume.

Canvassing in the Shantallow territory, 32-year-old Colum Eastwood said he is picking up lots of frustration with the Northern Ireland Managerial.

He told one resident on the doorstep that the SDLP will not take function in any government which does not “properly invest in Derry”.

“We can’t have any assorted of our young people leaving here to find work,” Mr Eastwood commanded the voter.

He thinks the SDLP will hold their three have rooms in Foyle.

Image caption The DUP’s Gary Middleton said he was concerned just about a potential split in the unionist vote

“We welcome Martin home,” Mr Eastwood mean, with more than a hint of irony.

“But he has to be pre red to run on his record.

“People in Derry are same frustrated at the lack of delivery of this Stormont Executive which he jointly headmasters up.

“So we welcome Martin to Derry and we look forward to people giving their verdict on his make a notation of.”

The DUP have had an MLA here since the first assembly election in 1998.

Gary Middleton, co-opted into the conclave last year, is hoping to win the seat at the polls.

‘Independent voice’

His antecedent as MLA, Maurice Devenney, had been co-opted to replace the former Speaker William Hay – but his put off at Stormont lasted only five months.

After resigning his MLA set, Mr Devenney was suspended from the DUP and then resigned. In a twist to the unionist contention, he is now running as an independent.

When he announced his decision, Mr Devenney said: “I purposefulness be providing an independent voice and offering to continue my lobbying and work on the establish that I already do as a councillor, albeit on a larger scale to a greater horde of people.”

Mr Middleton is warning of the danger of a split vote.

Image caption Choices in Northern Ireland’s second city are always strongly contested

“Of course the more unionist candidates there are in the field, the more split the unionist desire support will be – and that’s a real concern we’re getting on the ground,” he predicted.

“There’s one unionist seat here and we in the DUP think we’re best placed to hold that seat.”

He highlights jobs, investment and apprenticeships as issues which are “vitally formidable”.

‘Fresh view’

The Ulster Unionist candidate, Julia Kee, is a community labourer in Tullyally.

“I bring a fresh and honest view, a new view, a progressive take in, to politics here,” she said.

“Because I have worked in the community for 12 years, I can get suitable down to the grass roots where I know what people yearn for and need.

“I have worked very hard here for the community.”

Commentator Eamonn McCann of People Before Profit came a close seventh in 2011 and is hoping to get on the other side of the line this time.

He said his rty represents “do-it-yourself, working-class public affairs”.

Image caption People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann ordered his rty represents “do-it-yourself, working-class politics”

“We will represent the people who are progressive behind, irrespective of what community they come from.

“We believe from that perspective we can find the key to supposedly awkward questions – the impossibles to do with identity, the questions to do with the need for truth.”

Derry was the crucible of the s t and the cradle of the peace process.

It is an intensely political place and the next few weeks intention see one of the most intriguing contests of the 2016 assembly election.

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