27 March 1997 Edition

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Roisín not to stand

ANNOUNCING THAT ROISIN McALISKEY WOULD no longer be in the running for the mid-Ulster seat in May's Westminster election the McAliskey family said in a statement that they ``respect Sinn Féin's right to promote their political strategy''. They also thanked the party for the ``clarity and promptness of their response...which avoids discussion to no end''.

The statement, released on Sunday 23 March, came after Sinn Féin met the McAliskey family and outlined the view that Sinn Fein's decision to contest the mid-Ulster election must be seen in the context of the importance of compelling the next British government to face up to all the issues at the heart of the conflict and that Martin McGuinness's candidature was ``crucial to the electoral strategy of rebuilding the peace process''.

The McAliskey family statement came just days after the news, disclosed on Thursday 20 March, that Roisín would be a surprise candidate for the seat. Her mother Bernadette had asked Sinn Féin and the SDLP to stand aside to give her daughter a free run at a seat held by DUP MP William McCrea in order to pressurise the British government into releasing Roisín who is almost eight months pregnant and is held in the most inhumane conditions in Holloway prison in London.

Reacting to the announcement SDLP candidate Denis Haughey said he would not stand aside while Sinn Féin's Gearoid O'hEara said the party was prepared to discuss the situation with the McAliskey family, ``if it was a serious proposition''.

In their statement the McAliskey family also thanked the SDLP for meeting them. The statement added, ``since it was never our intention to further fragment any progressive vote in mid-Ulster by adding to any existing candidates we will not be pursuing the matter further''.

Welcoming the withdrawal Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy said, ``The news clears the way for Martin McGuinness, who is the strongest nationalist candidate in the field, to win the seat and end years of misrepresentation of mid-Ulster by Mr McCrea and to properly represent the people of mid-Ulster''.

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