When nominations close this evening the stage will be set for contests for three of the four seats in the forthcoming Pigs Marketing Board election.
Subject to last minute intervention only Mr W J Gillespie – the outgoing member and official UFU nominee for the Derry County seat – seems likely to have an unopposed return.
In an unprecedented move in producer marketing board elections, Mr James Lynch has submitted nominations both for the Fermanagh county seat, which he has held since 1965, and the newly created regional seat against the official UFU choices Messrs W Swan and T Orr respectively.
In County Down well-known Scarva auctioneer and farmer Mr George Bryson has entered the field against the official union candidate Mr J Heslip.
The decision by Mr Lynch to fight both the regional and county seats follows a meeting of producers in Derrygonnelly last week.
Said Mr Lynch: “Contrary to my earlier decision not to contest my Fermanagh seat, the producers’ meeting insisted – against my better judgement – that I should again go forward despite the obvious irregularities of the register.
“The meeting also unanimously supported my personal view that I should contest the regional seat to allow a country-wide exposure of the register.”
Mr Lynch has had a request to the Ministry to postpone the election “until the register mess could be cleared up” turned down.
He explained: “Ministry official Mr F M McMullan has pointed out to me that the compilation of the register is the board’s and not the Ministry’s responsibility. No action towards a postponement is therefore proposed.”
Asked if the Ministry would in fact accept the dual nomination, Mr Lynch said that he could see nothing in the scheme to prevent such a step.
“My decision may be strictly within the spirit and letter of the scheme,” he declared, “but at least it is not more irregular than the register on which the election is being fought.”
In County Down Mr Bryson attributes his intervention to “mounting pressure from producers seeking a choice in the election”.
Declared Mr Bryson: “I had neither an interest in nor any aspiration towards the seat but following repeated demands from producers from all over the county I have allowed my name to go forward. The attitude of these producers confirms my belief that the union method of selecting a candidate is not the most satisfactory.
Mr Bryson expresses himself as “alarmed” at the present position of the PMB.
“Could it be that like so many other boards we have had in Northern Ireland the writing is on the wall for the PMB?” he asked.
“Surely there is something seriously wrong when our pig population is dwindling and when pigs are making about £2 each more in the South than is available here.”
Added Mr Bryson: “I am first and foremost a producer’s man and unless I can get the answers to my questions I would not be a member of any board. I believe it is significant that the Ministry should have set up a Pig Enquiry Committee. There is seldom smoke without a fire.”
Meanwhile there are no indications of a contest in County Derry. It seems likely that the outgoing member Mr Gillespie will find himself returned unopposed by 5pm this evening.