Lagan Valley selects Paul Butler MLA as Westminster candidiate
Lisburn Council Office was the venue on Tuesday evening, 8 December, as Sinn Fein activists met to select their party’s candidate for the Lagan Valley constituency at the next Westminster election.
The selection convention took place in the Maple Room in the Lagan Valley Island Centre and marked the first time that Sinn Fein has held an official party event in Lisburn town.
The Irish national flag took pride of place as Republicans packed the room, in an area where the Sinn Fein vote has grown substantially over the last several years.
The event was chaired by Belfast Sinn Fein leader Bobby Storey who welcomed everyone to Lisburn.
Mr Storey said:
‘’The fact that this selection convention is taking place here tonight in the centre of Lisburn is an example of the growth of Sinn Fein.
‘’Nationalists in Lisburn and across Lagan Valley will be reassured and buoyed by our presence here tonight.
‘’Paul Butler has represented Sinn Fein on social and economic issues and, in particular, has vigorously challenged sectarianism in this area.
‘’He is a great battler for equality for nationalists in Lagan Valley .’’
After Mr Storey’s welcoming remarks, ex-pow Terry ‘Cruncher’ O’Neill gave a powerful rendition, as gaeilge, of the Irish national anthem, Amhran na bhFhiann.
Bobby Storey then oversaw the selection procedure.
As Republican campaigner Paul Butler was the only candidate nominated by party activists, he was thereby returned unopposed as Sinn Fein’s candidate for Lagan Valley in the upcoming Westminster election.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Butler said:
‘’It is a great honour to be selected to stand for Sinn Fein.
‘’I want to thank the party for nominating me and I want to thank everyone here tonight. I am very proud.
‘’As I was sitting here tonight, I thought of my late friend and great comrade Michael Ferguson who was with us when we first went into Lisburn and who battled with us against unionist discrimination.
‘’He helped lead the way in the growth of Sinn Fein in Lisburn and I feel it is important to remember him tonight.
‘’In the last election in 2007, the pundits were predicting that Sinn Fein would be in a fight for the last Assembly seat out of six in Lagan Valley.
‘’When the results came in, we had finished second and a big part of this was because people in Lisburn, in Moira, in Hillsborough, in Lambeg and other growth areas voted for Sinn Fein and for our project of equality and Irish unity.
‘’As we go into the campaign for the Westminster election, we will continue to work hard for the people of Lagan Valley and we will continue to give leadership.’’
The main speaker of the evening was South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey who said:
‘’There was a time when we wouldn’t have considered having a Sinn Fein event in the centre of Lisburn, but here we are tonight doing just that.
‘’This is a sign of the increased confidence and the continued growth of our party and our Republican message.
‘’Our vote has consistently increased over the past few elections and there is still potential for our vote to increase further.
‘’Standing here tonight as ‘Cruncher’ sang our national anthem, I recognised that this was a proud milestone.
‘’The fact that Paul Butler was the only candidate nominated by our party members is a massive vote of confidence in Paul’s record as a representative in this area and in his ability to continue to work for constituents and battle unionist discrimination.
‘’The project we are involved in as Republicans is massive, and we must continue to do our best for our supporters and for those who cannot be with us tonight.
‘’Sinn Fein is ready to fight any election.
‘’We will take no vote for granted and we will fight for every vote.
‘’Congratulations to Paul Butler on his selection tonight as Sinn Fein’s candidate for Lagan Valley in the Westminster election.
‘’I wish Paul and all our candidates all the best.’’