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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Email sparks independent debate
Dr Kieran Deeny polled more than 6,000 votes in West Tyrone
Dr Kieran Deeny won an assembly seat in 2003
An independent candidate in West Tyrone has said he is standing by an email suggesting that one day he could be a candidate for the SDLP.

The party has been embroiled in an internal disagreement about whether it should stand against hospital campaigner Dr Kieran Deeny.

He had asked the other parties to step aside to support his campaign to become the constituency MP.

On Thursday, the SDLP selected Eugene McMenamin to contest the seat.

The email could cause problems for Dr Deeny gaining cross-community support.

The email to the SDLP contains speculation by Dr Deeny about his future direction in mainstream political life.

"Once I do actually get involved in functioning politics, I may see quite quickly that in Northern Ireland it would be much better to be part of a bigger party to be able to achieve services for people," it says.

Clear run

"So who knows, I could be an SDLP candidate for the next assembly election (whenever that takes place) and that, of course, also could mean the becoming of an SDLP MP."

Mr Deeny denied his comments were an offer to join the party.

He told the Press Association: "What I was saying in the email was who knows what might happen in politics?

"My politics have always been social democrat. My father was an SDLP supporter and I was brought up in an SDLP town.

"I would be inclined towards any party which is cross-community and social democrat in its principles."

The SDLP had been divided about whether Dr Deeny should get a clear run from them against the outgoing MP, Sinn Fein's Pat Doherty.

Party leader Mark Durkan wants the SDLP to stand in every seat.

But the move has apparently dismayed some members of his own party in West Tyrone.

Kieran Deeny is apolitical, he can attract cross community support
SDLP Cllr Josephine Deehan
Cllr Josephine Deehan told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme on Wednesday she would be voting with her conscience despite the SDLP leader's views.

"I think on this occasion the party centrally has allowed itself to be shackled by its policy and I think that it is regrettable," she said.

"The Omagh hospital issue is the biggest issue in West Tyrone.

"Kieran Deeny is apolitical, he can attract cross community support.

Durkan
Mark Durkan says the SDLP should contest West Tyrone

"He needs to take his case to Westminster."

The doctor topped the poll in the Northern Ireland Assembly election of November 2003.

He had a surprise victory when he won a seat on a single issue ticket to save hospital services in Omagh.

In February 2004, he talked about setting up his own party.

"If I simply am seen as a protest vote, I will get nowhere," he said at that time.

The West Tyrone seat is also being contested by the DUP's Tom Buchanan and the Ulster Unionist's Derek Hussey.





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SEE ALSO:
SDLP bicker over West Tyrone seat
13 Apr 05 |  Northern Ireland