The chairperson of the Council for the West has announced that she will contest the next General Election as an Independent. Sligo schoolteacher Marian Harkin has long been known as a tireless campaigner for the West, but her national profile was boosted hugely when she stood as an independent candidate in the 1999 European elections. Despite winning 47,000 first preference votes in Connacht-Ulster, however, she lost out on a seat to another independent candidate, Dana Rosemary Scallon.

However, since then, there has been little doubt that Marian Harkin would stand in the next General Election. The only question was, with all the main parties believed to be interested in her as a candidate, would she go it alone or with a party machine behind her. This afternoon, Marian Harkin announced that she would remain Independent. She said that it is the best way to keep pressure on Government to deliver for Sligo-Leitrim.

As Chairperson for the Council for the West, she was to the forefront in the successful campaign to retain Objective One status for the region. Now she says that she has deep reservations about the Government's commitment to deliver the National Development Plan and natural gas throughout Connacht. Marian Harkin's candidacy will now definitely make Sligo-Leitrim a constituency to watch in the next election.