With just four weeks remaining until Fermanagh and South Tyrone head to the polls, signs of disunity within Unionism are surfacing once more. 

It can be revealed that Norman Donaldson, Deputy Grand Master of County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge, was approached to stand as a non-party Unity candidate. 

The businessman confirmed to this newspaper yesterday that both Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) approached him to stand as a Unionist Unity candidate. 

He said: “I can confirm I was approached by the DUP and the TUV to stand as a non-party Unity candidate for Fermanagh South Tyrone.

“Although, discussions did not progress any further due to a lack of consent across the three Unionist parties.”

With one sole Unionist candidate facing the electorate, there are signs of fractions within the various parties that their ‘support’ for Ulster Unionist candidate Diana Armstrong may perhaps be in name only.

It is understood that last week, the TUV in Fermanagh South Tyrone selected Donald Crawford as their candidate to contest the election but this was later vetoed by TUV leadership in favour of "maximising Unionist chances of winning the Fermanagh South Tyrone seat", according to leader Jim Allister.

Last week, Gavin Robinson called on “all Unionists in the constituency to set aside internal unionist debate and vote for the Ulster Unionist candidate in the interests of returning a Pro-Union Member of Parliament.” However, it has emerged that DUP politicians and members in Fermanagh will not canvass for Mrs. Armstrong, according to more than one source. 

At last week’s TUV/Reform UK campaign launch, Mr. Allister confirmed that the party would not contest the election in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

He said: "In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, we sought to maximise the opportunity to regain that seat through an agreed non-party candidate. Sadly, that was vetoed.

"However, in keeping with the established tradition in that constituency we will not contest that seat."

It is understood that this caused some frustration with local party members which the party has acknowledged as a move that “disappoints many people”.

A TUV spokesperson said: “We regret the decision of the UUP to reject the option of going with a non-party Unionist candidate.

“We continue to believe that this would have been the best option to maximise Unionist chances in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. This is also the position of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone TUV branch and its chairman Donald Crawford.”

"TUV is not in the business of elevating Sinn Fein or giving them an easy ride. Therefore, we have decided to stay out of this contest on this occasion while recognising this disappoints many people.

"The 3,091 people who voted for TUV in the Assembly election will have that option in the future."

The race continues as tomorrow [Friday, June 7] marks the deadline for candidates to submit nomination papers.

Earlier this week, Mrs. Armstrong and her election agent, James Cooper, a former chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party, travelled to Dungannon to hand in nomination papers alongside supporters.