HE had been written off after being deselected by his party last month but in a dramatic move, Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan is this week back in the race for an Assembly seat at the next election.

The Impartial Reporter can reveal that the controversial politician has been thrown a lifeline by Sinn Fein after its leadership agreed to hold another selection convention in Fermanagh. That means the results from the party’s internal vote in Lisnaskea in December in which members selected Sean Lynch, Michelle Gildernew and John Feely to go forward for the election in May are now void.

It’s understood that Mr. Flanagan and the other candidates will seek nomination within the next fortnight but with just three positions available one of them will lose out.

Mr. Flanagan refused to comment when contacted by this newspaper, instead he referred all queries to his party’s press office. In a short statement, a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Following representations the Ard Chomhairle has decided to rerun the convention.”

The decision to hold another vote was taken on Saturday when the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle, which includes Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Michelle Gildernew, met in Dublin. It’s understood the leadership was expected to simply rubber-stamp the results of the Lisnaskea convention, instead they decided to hold a fresh vote. It is not known why a second vote has to be taken in Fermanagh or if there were any issues with the first one which saw approximately 150 party members take part.

The political obituary had almost been written for Mr. Flanagan who was recently ordered to pay libel damages to Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott for falsely suggesting he had harassed and shot people in a message on Twitter. Even Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was last week wishing him well for the future, telling The Impartial Reporter: “Phil has made his own unique contribution to politics.”

“He’s a very intelligent guy. He went forward in the local convention and narrowly missed out, I understand. But he is still a proud member of the party and dedicated himself to working for the party. I think he has, obviously, been through his trial and tribulations with the situation with the court case and so forth. I think, obviously, the democratic process within the party has decided who will represent us in the next Assembly election, but I absolutely wish Phil well,” he said. 

If Mr. Flanagan is victorious as a result of what appears to be an unprecedented move by Sinn Fein, his political career may well survive.