Former Fermanagh District Council Chief Executive Rodney Connor has emerged as a serious possibility as an agreed Unionist candidate for Fermanagh-South Tyrone at the General Election.

Mr Connor officially finished his employment with the Council yesterday and it seems both the Ulster Unionists and DUP are now in talks about standing aside to allow him to run.

Last week, the Sinn Fein sitting MP, Michelle Gildernew launched her election campaign in Enniskillen, with Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness as guest speaker.

The same evening, former journalist Fearghal McKinney was officially confirmed as the SDLP candidate.

It is now widely expected that the poll will be held on May 6, with an official announcement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown due next Tuesday or Wednesday.

With the Ulster Unionists selecting Tom Elliott and the DUP nominating Arlene Foster, there has been much talk about getting an agreed candidate.

This has proved difficult. But speculation about Mr. Connor has been rife in many quarters over the week-end, and the picture has now changed dramatically.

It is understood that Mr. Connor kept discussion at arm's length until his official retirement from the Council.

But when contacted by the Impartial Reporter, he would only say: "I am aware of the speculation, but I can assure you that there has been no offer and neither has any agreement been reached by anyone." Also yesterday, Ulster Unionist Assembly member, Tom Elliott confirmed that: "Yes, we are now in discussions with Rodney Connor. We are confident that we have the makings of a situation where there would be a single Unionist candidate." Mr Connor has a long record of public service. He was with Fermanagh District Council for 33 years, the last 10 years as its Chief Executive.

On his retirement, tributes were paid from across the community for his work for the county, particularly in the business sphere.

It seems that Unionists from various parties see that reputation as a strength.

He is not affiliated to any party, but that in itself will create a need for some form of agreement between the UUP and DUP.

Yesterday, leading figures James Cooper and Maurice Morrow were meeting in Belfast. The Ulster Unionist link with the Conservatives is seen by some as a stumbling block, but other party sources believes it may provide an opportunity for an agreed candidate outside of the UUP and DUP.

Time is running short for the Unionists, with nominations only a matter of weeks away, and polling day just five weeks today.

But as the poll nears, negotiations have been given something of an urgency.

This week, clearly aware of the speculation, SDLP candidate Fearghal McKinney accused those promoting the prospect of united Unionist candidates of insulting the electorate.

Mr McKinney said the public were tired of sectarian head counts and called for the focus to be placed on real issues such as jobs, mortgages and education.

"The people in my constituency deserve better. They deserve candidates who put their interests first and not to be insulted by self-serving tribal politics," said the SDLP man.

The real prospect of a single Unionist candidate will put the focus also on the Nationalist side. Sinn Fein have been very much in the ascendancy in the area since Ms. Gildernew won the Westminster seat in 2001, but over the past couple of decades the SDLP has consistently refused to give their rivals a free run.