Irish Republican News · April 11, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Westminster constituencies (part II)
Westminster constituencies (part II)
A look at the second half of the 18 seats up for grabs in the Westminster elections next month.

 

SOUTH DOWN:

While his colleagues John Hume and Seamus Mallon have decided to retire from Westminster, Eddie McGrady is the only SDLP MP defending a seat.

His decision to fight one more campaign is a measure of just how much pressure the SDLP is under across the Six Counties to maximise its vote in the face of a confident Sinn Féin electoral machine.

Sinn Féin is hoping Colombia Three campaigner Caitriona Ruane can overturn the SDLP’s majority. which was slashed from 13,858 in 2001 to 3,915 in the 2003 Assembly contest.

NORTH BELFAST:

There were no gasps of surprise when Paisleyite Nigel Dodds took this seat with a 6,387 majority in 2001.

However, the DUP’s lead over Sinn Féin in the 2003 Assembly election was whittled down to just 2,262.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly must have a realistic chance of ousting Dodds from Westminster.

NEWRY AND ARMAGH:

The departure of former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon leaves the SDLP a mountain to climb if he is to prevent Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy making this a republican seat.

In 2003, Sinn Féin was 7,215 votes ahead of its nationalist rival, a stunning turnaround from the Assembly poll five years earlier when the SDLP was 4,901 ahead and the 3,576 Westminster majority Seamus Mallon enjoyed over Conor Murphy in 2001.

NORTH DOWN:

The victory of Sylvia Hermon of the Ulster Unionist Party over unionist hardliner Robert McCartney in 2001 was hailed by the London and Dublin governments as an example of a force of moderation within unionism.

They were wrong but there may be worse to come, as there is every chance the seat will now fall into the hands of the DUP. McCartney, leader of the tiny UKUP, has dedided to leave the way clear for the Democratic Unionists’ Peter Weir after winning assuarance on DUP policy.

EAST DERRY:

In hindsight Democratic Unionist Gregory Campbell’s triumph in 2001 over UUP war-horse William Ross was a taste of things to come. The UUP have gambled this time on Assembly member David McClarty.

There is also an interesting contest in nationalism in this safely unionist seat, with ex-police reservist Billy Leonard, who defected last year from the SDLP to Sinn Féin, facing former colleague John Dallat.

MID ULSTER:

When Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness gained the seat in 1997 from the DUP’s Reverend William McCrea, he had a 1,883 majority.

Four years later, he had a 9,953 majority and the party’s grip on the constituency has continued to tighten, with a 10,954 lead over the DUP in the Assembly election.

STRANGFORD:

Two political dynasties are squaring off in this constituency with Iris Robinson of the DUP defending her seat against Michael McGimpsey`s son, Gareth.

Gareth McGimpsey sensationally defeated former Stormont Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt at the UUP’s selection meeting but the task facing him is quite daunting.

WEST BELFAST:

Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin are expected to maintain a firm hold on this constituency.

In 2001, Mr Adams’ majority over the SDLP’s Alex Attwood was 19,342 votes and two years later in the Assembly election, the party`s lead was 15,118.

The SDLP has chosen Alex Attwood as its standard bearer again, with the party hoping only to retain its vote share.

NORTH ANTRIM:

Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley has been the MP for this constituency since 1970, comfortably swatting aside any Ulster Unionist challenger.

This time, 28 year-old Westminster aide and barrister Rodney McCune faces the soon to be 79 year-old Free Presbyterian Church leader.

If there is a contest in this constituency it may well be for the nationalist vote. The veteran Sean Farren of the SDLP was rattled when Sinn Féin’s youthful Philip McGuigan outpolled his party in the 2003 Assembly election and will be anxious to avoid a repeat.

© 2005 Irish Republican News