The Conservative Party has confirmed it is to field a candidate in Newry and Armagh at the forthcoming Westminster elections – one of two new faces to emerge for the constituency ahead of polling day next month.
Robert Rigby, who lives in London, has been selected by the party to run here, with the Alliance Party also fielding Kate Nicholl.
A total of five candidates are now known to be running in Newry and Armagh as the time for nomination papers to be submitted comes to an end later this week.
Mr Rigby, who has been a councillor in Westminster since 2010, is also the chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.
He works in marketing and sales, including 20 years with a leading international airline. He currently manages business development for a travel management company.
Mr Rigby says: “A vote for me is a vote for the national Conservative party and a voice for the residents and businesses of Newry and Armagh.
“I am passionate about helping others, ensuring we continue to build a strong economy, offering a fair tax system and supporting hard working families.
“As your MP, I will work tirelessly for the people of Newry and Armagh, listening and speaking up for the whole community.”
Mr Rigby works in London, where he lives with his wife, Emiko.
This will be his first general election contest.
As he prepares to canvass within the area, Mr Rigby says: “It is an honour to be part of the democratic process and fighting for a seat in Northern Ireland on May 7.
“My Christian beliefs and Roman Catholic upbringing will play an important part in my campaign when out and about meeting and engaging with the residents of Newry and Armagh.”
Meanwhile, also running in Newry and Armagh is Kate Nicholl, on behalf of the Alliance Party.
Ms Nicholl, who lives in Holywood in County Down, is originally from Zimbabwe; her mother is originally from South Africa and her father from North Down.
She describes herself on Twitter as ‘Afro-Irish’ and stood unsuccessfully at the last local government elections in North Down.
In 2013, she was elected chairperson of the Alliance Party in North Down, where she worked closely with former North Down Mayor Andrew Muir, who contested Newry and Armagh previously for Alliance in 2010.
Apart from years spent at university in London, Ms Nicholl has lived in Northern Ireland since the age of 13.
Newry and Armagh should be an interesting one to watch come next month.
Sitting MP Conor Murphy is not standing again for Westminster, with Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady the party’s choice to try and retain the seat.
In the past two Parliamentary elections, Mr Murphy has polled more than 40% of the votes.
He took the seat previously held by the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon.
The SDLP, meanwhile, is hoping to claim back the seat lost in 2005 by fielding a new face in the form of the former All-Ireland Armagh GAA winner Justin McNulty.
The unionists are also out to do damage as both the DUP and UUP have agreed an historic pact for four constituencies, one of them being Newry and Armagh.
The DUP agreed to withdraw the selected William Irwin and throw their weight behind the Ulster Unionist Party’s candidate, Danny Kennedy, in the hope of maximising the unionist vote.
Alliance candidate Kate Nicholl has weighed straight into the political debate on that front and branded the pact “laughable”.
She said: “It is absolutely laughable that the DUP would urge voters to vote for Danny Kennedy as the person they believe is best placed to represent the constituency, yet at the same time they are prepared to prosecute him due to his conduct as Minister.
“You actually couldn’t make it up and the people of Newry and Armagh deserve better. This pact was made behind closed doors by men in grey suits, taking voters for granted and denying them their democratic right come election day.
“The fallout from this patched together agreement has already begun and, while they fight among themselves – even going as far to threaten legal action – Alliance remains committed to moving Newry and Armagh forward, not back.
“I’m standing to offer voters choice. They can move back to the politics of fear and division, or forward to inclusive and progressive politics and a shared future. Alliance has proven it can deliver, step forward with me to strengthen what we can achieve at Westminster.”
Nominations close later this week but so far five are now known to be contesting: Mickey Brady (SF), Justin McNulty (SDLP), Danny Kennedy (UUP), Kate Nicholl (Alliance) and Robert Rigby (Conservative).
Last time round, the seat was contested by Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, Dominic Bradley (SDLP), William Irwin (DUP), Danny Kennedy (UUP), Andrew Muir, of the Alliance Party, and victims’ campaigner William Frazer as an Independent.
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