Three days before nominations closed for the recent Assembly election held in Northern Ireland, a most unusual and unpredictable set of circumstances were unfolding.
The day was Saturday 4th February, and a short while before the clock struck midnight, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party(DUP) Charlie Chittick had decided to resign from that Party and he informed them accordingly (by e-mail as far as we know.)
Good for him, but what took him so long to leave that appalling and deeply compromised Party?
Ah but then the story took a surprising turn, because, within a matter of minutes, the now ex-DUP man contacted the TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice) the Party led by Jim Allister and with incredible haste, joined it.
All this took place late on that Saturday night.
We cannot ascertain the sequence of events that transpired after Mr. Chittick joined the TUV but by the following Monday morning, he was a paid-up member of the TUV and nomination signatures were being sought for the ex-DUP now TUV man so he could stand as their first ever candidate in West Tyrone.
He attended the Electoral office on 7th February and was duly nominated. We don’t know if the media knew about the TUV’s plans, but if they did, they kept the information to themselves until they released it the following day.
His candidature was announced on the twitter page of local paper the Ulster Herald on Wednesday morning, 8th February.
I was an Independent candidate in the election and neither I nor my election agent (my husband) knew anything of the hasty decision by the TUV to stand for election in West Tyrone. We were un-pleasantly surprised because we knew they would hurt our campaign.
The media have shown little or no interest in the speed with which Mr.Chittick left one Party and joined another, nor his speedy exaltation to TUV candidate. We find their lack of interest and curiosity in this matter disturbing.
The TUV were wrong to enter the race in West Tyrone because the electorate had me to vote for and I am far stronger and hardline on many issues than the TUV.
They are not calling for the return of capital punishment – I am
They are not calling for the recriminalisation of homosexuality – I am
They are not calling for the abolition of human abortion – I am
They advocated voting for other Unionist Parties after giving the TUV first preference and this means that they were happy for the cowardly and secular DUP and the liberal UUP to benefit from TUV transfer votes.
I would never advocate that voters should give any preference to the DUP or UUP, not 2nd and not even 15th (there were 15 candidates on the ballot paper in West Tyrone.)
I could mention many more policy issues that I support, such as the Union with the UK and Brexit. I am pro-Union and pro-Brexit.
What more could Evangelical Christians want in a candidate?
Yet Mr. Chttick says that some people in West Tyrone told him that they had no-one to vote for unless he stood.
That is an insult to me. I have been a candidate in four elections now, three before the TUV were on the ballot paper in West Tyrone. I have been the strongest Evangelical Christian candidate West Tyrone has ever had, and Evangelical Christians should have voted for me in their hundreds.
As it turned out, Mr. Chittick got over 800 first preference votes which increased to over 1,000 after transfers.
I on the other hand got 41 first preference votes which increased to 45 after transfers.
It is all so sad, so very sad.
In 2014 when I stood for the Council (my first ever election) a TUV man was told by someone in his Party not to help us!
Yet we have helped the TUV in times past. We arranged a meeting in Omagh for the Voice for Democracy (a forerunner for the TUV) in 2007.
We attended meetings addressed by Mr Jim Allister, and when he stood as a candidate in the European election in 2009, I assisted the TUV at a polling station in Omagh.
We never joined the TUV although we agreed with them on a number of issues, in particular their opposition to terrorists in Government. However we felt that they were not strong enough on moral issues. Strong, but not strong enough!
However, despite their shortcomings, the TUV are vastly preferable to the wretched, cowardly DUP and the PC and liberal Ulster Unionist Party.