Election previews - Foyle & East Derry

This is the second 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.


The Foyle constituency, which takes in Derry city, has been a traditional stronghold of the nationalist SDLP. In 1998, they had three assembly members elected here, compared to Sinn Féin's two. The DUP took the remaining seat.

In recent elections Sinn Féin's vote has grown as the SDLP's has stood still.

This November the SDLP could be weakened by the absence of its founder, John Hume. Mr Hume's successor, Mark Durkan, tried to strengthen the SDLP's appeal to younger voters by replacing the outgoing assembly member Annie Courtney with the up-and-coming councillor Gerard Diver.

An angry Ms Courtney pledged to stand as an independent. She could rob the SDLP of some support in the Waterside and rural areas, where she will be campaigning head-to-head with Gerard Diver. On the other side of the Foyle, councillors Mary Bradley and Pat Ramsey complete the SDLP ticket.

Sinn Féin have a very strong team with Republican veteran Raymond McCartney -- a former leader of IRA prisoners in the H Blocks -- campaigning alongside the party chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin, and the other outgoing assembly member Mary Nelis.

One complicating factor in all of this could be the candidacy of the civil rights veteran Eamonn McCann. As a newspaper columnist and broadcaster, he may attract support for his Socialist Environmental Alliance.

The unionist vote here is gradually falling, but there will be a unionist seat here for some elections to come. So the DUP's Willie Hay should be safe again.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

John Hume SDLP
William Hay DUP
Mitchel McLaughlin SF
Mark Durkan SDLP
John Tierney SDLP
Mary Nelis SF

The Party breakdown of the 1998 vote was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - overall percentage of vote

SDLP - 3 - 23342 - 47.8%
SF - 2 - 12696 - 26%
DUP - 1 - 6112 - 12.5%
UUP - 4669 - 9.6%
Alliance - 1058 - 2.2%
Labour - 345 - 0.7%
PUP - 287 - 0.6%


This constituency takes in the whole of Coleraine and Limavady District Councils. The member of parliament has been Gregory Campbell (DUP) since he defeated the incumbent William Ross (UUP) in 2001. The constituency had lost parts of Magherafelt District Council to Mid-Ulster in 1995.

East Derry (officially East Londonderry) is mainly unionist territory - in 1998, unionist candidates took four of the six seats, with the remaining two going to the SDLP.

This time Gregory Campbell hopes to take an extra seat for the DUP. One difficulty in the DUP's path may be the candidacy of Boyd Douglas, who has strong backing in rural areas. He may be one of the few independent unionists likely to survive this election.

The former Ulster Unionist assembly member Pauline Armitage is also running, this time as one of Robert McCartney's UK Unionists.

On the pro-Agreement side, Mr Trimble's close ally David McClarty is running again. He would hope to be joined at Stormont by one of his running made

However, the real election story from East Derry might well come on the nationalist side. Sinn Féin are fielding a strong local candidate in Francie Brolly - a well known musician with extensive Gaelic football connections. Brolly's wife and fellow councillor Anne made history earlier this year when she was elected the first SF Mayor of Limavady.

The Sinn Féin vote in this constituency has already shown a more than 50% growth between 1998 and 2001.

The SDLP polled 23.72% in 1998, falling to 20.81% of the vote in 2001. This time around, further growth in the Sinn Féin vote will intensify the contest for seats in this constituency.

Sitting members of the Assembly:

Gregory Campbell DUP
David McClarty UUP
John Dallat SDLP
Arthur Doherty SDLP
Boyd Douglas UUAP
Pauline Armitage UUP

The Party breakdown of the 1998 vote was:

Party - seats won - overall vote - overall percentage of vote

UUP - 2 - 9954 - 49.2%
SDLP - 2 - 9366 - 46.3%
DUP - 1 - 6270 - 31%
SF - 3860 - 19.1%
Ind U - 1 - 3811 - 18.8%
UDP - 3280 - 16.2%
Alliance - 2395 - 11.8%
PUP - 582 - 2.9%

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