South Armagh Election shock……McAllister in bid for Assembly seat

April 18, 2016

By Patsy McArdle

A LEADING South Armagh community activist  has raised  fresh ripples on the  political scene  this week by confirming  his intention to  fight for  an Assembly seat in the Newry and Armagh area in next month’s Elections.

Martin McAllister, 62, from Crossmaglen, a former Republican prisoner,  who survived  death during some serious gun clashes with the British Forces during the early days in the campaign, has confirmed he is standing as an Independent for  election on May 5th.

Mr. McAllister,  who is more recently well known for his frequent commentary for national and provincial media outlets in relation to the impact of certain  political issues for south Armagh, will be  bravely battling to claim one of the two seats currently held by the SDLP, or one of  the three seats held by Sinn Fein. Indeed,  many of his supporters are already initially predicting  his  well identified sincere qualities  and his acknowledged efforts   to assist people of  all political persuasion, could attract quite strong cross-party support for the popular Crossmaglen contender.

“It will be a tough fight,  but  I feel the people will realize  the importance of having an independent voice to represent them in parliament and thereby pursue the day-to-day issues that matter for this region,” he said  in an interview yesterday.

The large number of  people in the area who already seek his assistance as a community activist on various issues, and whom, he  says, he is  always delighted to be able to  provide some help, has spurred him into allowing his name to go forward for the Election. Indeed, the signatures on Mr. McAllister’s nomination papers reflect the extent of his popularity and  his standing in the wider local community.

As an Independent member of the Assembly, he feels he will  also be  making fresh political history for Crossmaglen—in following the footsteps of the late  John Fee,  who lost his seat some years ago .

Martin said yesterday : “I am taking a very positive approach and I am determined that real issues will be followed up,  which matter for the people of Crossmaglen and the wider south Armagh and  Newry area”.

“There are several issues requiring urgent action but these have been ignored  by the Assembly,  which  is more or less totally inactive.”

“Health funding  has reached an all-time low—the waiting time for ambulances is also totally unacceptable and has led to tragic consequences for some families. The truth is that neither Sinn Fein or the DUP have really worked together, and all the public are now  getting from the Assembly is a general gloss,  with polarization becoming more evident, day by day”.

Martin believes many people have stayed away from the polls in the past because they were not offered anything new, but he now feels that with the opportunity he is providing for an effective Independent voice to represent the south Armagh region in the Assembly,  all that will change, and he is hoping for a huge voter turn-out,  on May 5th to ensure he wins  a seat.

He says he is hopeful of getting support right across the political spectrum  because of the importance to the community  of an effective voice for the area in the Assembly.

He intends to pursue a  varied range  of issues which  can greatly  benefit south Armagh. He said : “The people must realize there  wasn’t one useful piece of legislation passed by the Assembly up until now,  and all  that must be changed—we must also get maximum  benefits from the Peace Fund dividend, which we  have failed to get”.

He said there was  also a need for a  completely fresh approach to policing in the region,  with  more measures  being  pursued, to instill a  completely new sense of community involvement in policing—and therefore “ bring  communities  forward  and away from the  dark days of the past”.

He intends to pursue  efforts for inward investment in the Crossmaglen, Newry, and  wider south Armagh region, and endeavour to fill  the long void  left by other politicians, rectifying  their lapse,  and boosting  the local economy in every way for families in the area.

Martin  insists that GAA clubs are doing more than the government or the legislators in helping to enable young people to engage  in social outlets, through sport  and other wholesome activity which have contributed in a major way to the proud image currently reflected throughout Ireland  by the youth of south Armagh.

“However, ” he said, “much more sponsorship by way of funds to these sporting clubs is imperative,  as they are doing the work of the government—but are unpaid”.

All in all, Mr. McAllister concluded : “I am determined to try and bring  vital changes at Assembly level that should benefit,  in some way, every family—and indeed every voter—in this region and I feel my election can offer a great new impetus for Crossmaglen, Newry and Armagh”.