Unionists agree on poll candidate
Published 14/02/2013 | 22:56
The son of a murdered police officer has been chosen to contest the Mid-Ulster by-election on a joint unionist ticket, it has been confirmed.
Nigel Lutton, whose father Frederick, a former RUC reservist, was shot dead by the IRA in 1979, was selected as a single unionist candidate. He will run for the Westminster seat vacated by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness last month.
In a statement issued after separate meetings of their Mid-Ulster constituency associations, the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionist Party said Mr Lutton had received unanimous support. The by-election is due to be held on March 7.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said: "The announcement that Nigel Lutton is to contest the by-election as an agreed unionist standard bearer is tremendous news and will be welcomed by tens of thousands of unionists in both the Mid-Ulster area and more generally throughout Northern Ireland as a common-sense response to the demands to see unionists co-operating together."
Mike Nesbitt, Ulster Unionist Party leader, said: "We have listened carefully to the many pro-union voters in Mid-Ulster who were calling for co-operation in this election and for the opportunity to end the long drought that has seen Mid-Ulster without representation in the House of Commons for 16 long years."
Mr Lutton, who is a member of the new Victims' Forum, described himself as a life-long unionist and said he was delighted to have the chance to run for Westminster. He said: "I am looking forward to the campaign ahead. Being the agreed unionist candidate is a positive move for unionism in Mid-Ulster.
"I have devoted a large part of my life working with victims of terrorism, particularly in the Mid-Ulster area. In Parliament, I will be a voice for victims and will stand for law and order. Whilst some try to justify terrorism, it was always wrong."
Mr Lutton's father was shot dead at a National Trust property near Moy in 1979. He had resigned from the RUC just a few months before he was killed. Mr McGuinness had held the Mid-Ulster seat since 1997 but never took his position in Parliament because of his party's abstentionist policy.
Mr McGuinness formally resigned in January and said he wanted to focus on his role as Northern Ireland's deputy First Minister. Francie Molloy is to run for republicans. The SDLP candidate is Patsy McGlone and independent victims campaigner Willie Frazer has also expressed an interest.
Meanwhile, Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister has added his support for a single unionist candidate. He said: "As a victim of the IRA, through the murder of his father, Nigel Lutton can well represent an area so savaged by republican terrorism."