Irish Republican News · November 26, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Election previews - Greater Belfast
Election previews - Greater Belfast
This is the final installment of a five-part constituency by constituency analysis of the parties and candidates in the up-coming Belfast Assembly elections, to be held on November 26th.

Each of the 18 parliamentary constituencies will return 6 members by single transferable vote (STV) to sit in the Stormont Assembly, thus making up its 108 members.

 

SOUTH ANTRIM

This constituency takes in the largely rural Antrim district council and parts of the more suburban Newtownabbey district council.

Alliance leader David Ford is thought to be in difficulty in this constituency.

Councillor Martin Meehan contests this constituency for Sinn Féin for the third time in an election where a steadily increasing vote share must put the party in with an opportunity to take a seat here.

The UUP's Duncan Shipley Dalton has resigned from party politics and anti-agreement UUP candidate David Burnside is likely to pick up a seat.

In 1998, the UUP took two Assembly members, with one for the DUP, UKUP and Alliance. This time around, with collapsing vote share in the Alliance and the other fringe unionists, the UUP and DUP will be looking to share the Alliance and UKUP seats between them -- but Sinn Fein could also be in with a shout for the last seat.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

Jim Wilson UUP
Wilson Clyde DUP
Donovan McClelland SDLP
Norman Boyd UKUP
Duncan Shipley-Dalton UUP
David Ford Alliance

The Party breakdown of this vote was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - percentage of vote

UUP - 2 - 13175 - 29.9
DUP - 1 - 8850 - 20.1
SDLP - 1 - 7783 - 17.7
UKUP - 1 - 4360 - 9.9
Alliance - 1 - 3778 - 8.6
SF - 3226 - 7.3
PUP - 1546 - 3.5
NIWC - 1108 - 2.5
LAB - 137 - 0.3
NLP - 28 - 0.1

NORTH DOWN

This constituency takes in the south-eastern coastal strip of Belfast Lough, including the whole of North Down District Council and Donaghadee in Ards District Council.

The fight for the unionist vote in North Down is likely to be fierce - to the possible detriment of the middle ground.

The dominant figure here is the anti-Agreement Robert McCartney, leader of the UK Unionists. He lost his Westminster seat in acrimonious circumstances two years ago when Alliance candidate Dr Stephen Farry stood aside to allow the Ulster Unionist, Lady Sylvia Hermon a clear run.

But he's back as large as ever, though he must compete for the anti-Agreement vote with the DUP's Peter Weir, who was elected last time for the Ulster Unionists. Both should be safe.

The Ulster Unionists have reason for hope, though one of their three candidates may be disappointed.

The Alliance deputy leader Eileen Bell might battle to hold her seat. Other contenders are Jane Morrice of the Women's Coalition; the Ulster Unionists and even the DUP who say no-one should rule out local councillor Alex Easton taking a second seat for the party, although frankly it would be a long-shot.

This was one of the few constituencies without a Sinn Féin candidate in the 1997 and 1998 elections. The Sinn Féin candidate in 2003 is Maria George.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

Robert McCartney UKUP
Sir John Gorman UUP
Alan McFarland UUP
Eileen Bell AP
Peter Weir UUP
Jane Morrice NIWC

The Party breakdown of this vote was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - percentage of vote

UUP - 3 - 12147 - 32.6%
UKUP - 1 - 8361 - 22.4%
Alliance - 1 - 5368 - 14.4%
DUP - 2571 - 6.9%
SDLP - 2048 - 5.5%
NIWC - 1 - 1808 - 4.8%
UI - 1382 - 3.7%
PUP - 1376 - 3.7%
Ind. - 1327 - 3.6%

STRANGFORD

The picturesque constituency of Strangford on the County Down coast is now part of the spreading empire of the Robinson family. Just as husband Peter has long bestrode East Belfast for the DUP so wife Iris, who took the seat in the 2001 Westminster election, is building a base in Strangford.

The constituency's western (Castlereagh) part was substantially rearranged in 1995; its eastern part was shunted southward, losing Donaghadee to North Down but gaining from South Down.

The DUP hope it can take three seats in this cockpit constituency for unionism -- though it is by no means a certainty.

Strangford is also political home to Lord Kilclooney - better known as John Taylor. He held Strangford from its inception in 1983 until his retirement two years ago saw Mrs Robinson take the seat.

Lord Kilclooney is running for the assembly, as is David McNarry, who stepped into his shoes at short notice in the 2001 general election. Both are likely to be returned.

The SDLP hope to take a seat but their cause has not been helped by an internal row. Danny McCarthy, who lost out narrowly to Cedric Wilson last time, is standing as an independent in opposition to newcomer Joe Boyle who replaced him.

The disarray may just help the Alliance and Sinn Fein. The Sinn Féin candidate in this most difficult constituency is Dermot Kennedy, chairperson of Strangford Sinn Féin.

The constituency's western (Castlereagh) part was substantially rearranged in 1995; its eastern part was shunted southward, losing Donaghadee to North Down but gaining from South Down.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

Iris Robinson DUP
John Taylor UUP
Cedric Wilson UKUP
Kieran McCarthy AP
Thomas Benson UUP
Jim Shannon DUP

The Party breakdown of the vote in 1998 was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - percentage of vote

UUP - 2 - 12514 - 41.2%
DUP - 2 - 11901 - 39.2%
Alliance - 1 - 5216 - 17.2%
SDLP - 3865 - 12.7%
UKUP - 1 - 3078 - 10.1%
Ind. - 2247 - 7.4%
PUP - 1342 - 4.4%
Ind. - 951 - 3.1%
SF - 614 - 2%
UDP - 322 - 1.1%

UPPER BANN

This constituency -- centred on Portadown, the `citadel' of unionism -- contains all of Craigavon District Council and much of Banbridge District Council, but also Lurgan, which has a large nationalist population.

It is the seat of the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, but he may not top the poll. That position could be occupied by the DUP's David Simpson, who in the 2001 Westminster election chopped David Trimble's majority back from 10,000 to just over 2,000.

The DUP team has been bolstered by the addition of the Orangeman Denis Watson, well known in relation to the Drumcree dispute which may give the DUP an opportunity to take two seats.

This was a breakthrough constituency for Sinn Féin in 1998 as Dara O'Hagan took 14.32% of the vote and an Assembly seat. In the 2001 Westminster elections, the Sinn Féin vote grew again to 21.10%, opening up the potential for further advances this year. Sitting Assembly member Dara O'Hagan is joined on the ticket by Craigavon councillor John O'Dowd.

The SDLP vote in Upper Bann has decreased substantially from the 23.7% won by Brid Rogers in 1998. In 2001 Rogers contested West Tyrone for the SDLP and the party's Upper Bann vote share fell to 14.91%. Her retirement from the assembly could help Sinn Fein again here.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

David Trimble UUP
Brid Rodgers SDLP
Denis Watson UUAP
Dara O'Hagan SF
Mervyn Carrick DUP
George Savage UUP

The Party breakdown of the vote in 1998 was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - percentage of vote

UUP - 2 - 14559 - 27.7%
SDLP - 1 - 11947 - 22.7%
DUP - 1 - 7812 - 14.8%
SF - 1 - 7216 - 13.7%
UUAP - 1 - 6260 - 11.9%
UUP - 2221 - 4.2%
Alliance - 1556 - 3%

LAGAN VALLEY

This constituency contains most of Lisburn District Council and the Dromore area of Banbridge District Council.

Lagan Valley promises to be another cockpit in the battle between different brands of unionism.

Back in the spring, the DUP pulled a surprise here, by putting former Tory MP and spokesman on Northern Ireland, Andrew Hunter, into the fight. However, he's not as well known a face as the DUP might think. The outgoing Edwin Poots may be more assured of his DUP seat than the English MP.

UUP dissident Jeffrey Donaldson would hope to bring in at least one if not two extra seats for the UUP now he is on the ticket. Paddy Roche is not running again for the small Northern Ireland Unionist Party, so both unionist parties will be battling for his seat.

Mr Donaldson has three fellow candidates, but only one, Billy Bell is supportive of the party leadership.

At the last minute the former Ulster Unionist Party chief whip at Stormont, Ivan Davis, threw his hat in the ring too - he's got a strong personal vote and will be campaigning as an independent pro-agreement unionist.

The SDLP is being targeted strongly by Paul Butler, a Sinn Fein councillor based on the Twinbrook estate outside Belfast.

Patricia Lewsley won a seat here for the SDLP on the last count in 1998, a substantial number of Sinn Féin transfers making the difference, even though she didn't reach the quota. But the Lagan Valley Sinn Féin vote has recorded steady growth in this constituency, almost trebling between the last two Westminster elections, and the party could pull a surprise here.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

Seamus Close Alliance
Billy Bell UUP
Patrick Roche UKUP
Edwin Poots DUP
Patricia Lewsley SDLP
Ivan Davis UUP

The Party breakdown of the vote in 1998 was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - percentage of vote

UUP - 2 - 14339 - 30.8%
DUP - 1 - 8350 - 18%
Alliance - 1 - 6788 - 14.6%
UKUP - 1 - 5361 - 11.5%
SDLP - 1 - 4039 - 8.7%
UDP - 3725 - 8%
SF - 2000 - 4.3%
NIWC - 955 - 2.1%

© 2003 Irish Republican News