Michelle Gildernew has said that “this place could last for another 100 years and it still would not work”. The Sinn Fein candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was speaking at a hustings event and was responding to a question posed by We Deserve Better campaigner, Dylan Quinn, who had given a presentation on the what he saw as the problems caused by the lack of a Stormont Assembly.

“We do deserve better, I thought when you were giving your presentation there you were giving a very cogent case for a united Ireland. We will never get what we deserve under the current situation,” Ms Gildernew stated.

“As far as we are concerned England comes first, Scotland and Wales come second and third and we come fourth. As far as we are concerned, we will never be better than bottom of the pile under the current political arrangement,” she said before adding:

“We are almost 100 years from the creation of the state, and it has never worked. It has always been dysfunctional. It had discrimination and sectarianism at its heart.”

The hustings event, organised by “Fermanagh Crisis Group”, was held at the Westville Hotel on Tuesday night. The group, which describes itself as being an ad hoc cross community group, invited all five parliamentary candidates to the event. On the night only Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Fein and Adam Gannon of the SDLP attended the event.

Speaking on the topic of Stormont Mr. Gannon, who will run for the SDLP in the forthcoming election asked those in attendance to change their voting habits:

“Things are bad now and they are getting worse. We must vote for better. If we keep voting for the same parties, then we will keep getting the same results. A vote for the SDLP sends a message that we want better and that we can have better,” he said before he turned his attention to the need for reform at Stormont.

“We proposed a reform to the petition of concern that would help with the blockages that have happened up in Stormont. It would allow parties to save face, so they are seen to be submitting to each other.”

There was also a presentation on the crisis that is facing the health service by a nurse at South West Acute Hospital, Damian McHugh.

Mr. McHugh outlined some of the stresses that are being faced by frontline staff and explained that the current strike action that has been embarked on by health workers was not just because of parity of pay but also because of safe staffing levels:

“If we hadn’t taken the action that we have taken patients would have come to harm,” he told the event before asking the candidates what they would do about the threat to services in Fermanagh and how they would insure the retention and recruitment of more staff.

Mr. Gannon spoke about the need for planned pay increases for health staff.

“The first thing we need to do is give the nurses the pay increase they deserve, and more than that, we need to ensure that there is guaranteed increase over a period of years,” he said while he also spoke about the GP crisis in Fermanagh, stating that it was this issue that motivated him to get into politics:

“We need to train more GPs and more health staff in general.

“And we also need more education for the public to live a healthier life.”

Ms Gildernew told those in attendance that it was her Sinn Fein colleague, Michelle O’Neill who was “the first to give an increase of pay to workers” and that “she knew it wasn’t enough but it was what she could do at the time. It was the first increase of pay in a long period”.

She also said that health was the “biggest issue after Brexit”. There is a need for sustainability in our services. 20 years ago, I was fighting that the new hospital was built in Enniskillen and I continue to fight every day to make sure there are adequate services in that hospital to make it viable.”

The event went on for just over two hours with other presentations given on the topics of austerity, Brexit, fracking and youth and disability.