Election brings long-awaited political pivot
Election brings long-awaited political pivot


A historic Westminster election has the potential to kill off the hated Conservative Party while confirming the decline of unionism in the north of Ireland.

Enraged British voters voting today are expected to end fourteen years of Conservative rule in London and hand a crushing and ignominious defeat to the party led by Rishi Sunak.

Some of Britain’s most infamous right-wing politicians are set to be ousted in what were once the safest Tory constituencies, joining those who stood down ahead of the poll.

The election of a new Labour government in Downing Street under a centre-right leader, Keir Starmer, is unlikely to deliver an immediate transformation in Britain’s approach to Ireland, but a generational ‘reset’ of London’s political direction in the north of Ireland is widely expected, including in Dublin.

Chris Heaton-Harris (pictured, left), who could become the last Tory Direct Ruler in the north of Ireland for a generation, launched his party’s doomed manifesto in County Down on Saturday. The party received 0.7% of the vote in the north at the last election.

Heaton-Harris, who quit politics last month, pointed to Brexit, the return of Stormont and his government’s Legacy Bill as the party’s ‘achievements’ in the north of Ireland – but all three face being upended by a new Labour administration.

A last cameo performance by the Tory minister was mirrored for unionism by the appearance at Newry Magistrates Court of former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson (pictured, right).

He heard that he will will face trial in September on 18 charges of rape and sexual abuse, with his wife accused of aiding and abetting him in the alleged crimes.

The ignominious end to his political career has undermined his party and his successor and current DUP leader, Gavin Robinson. Robinson is in an uphill battle to hold onto his seat in east Belfast from Alliance leader Naomi Long - his defeat could mean it will be the first time in history that Belfast won’t be represented in Westminster by any unionists.

Donaldson’s old Lagan Valley seat is one where the DUP is also being strongly challenged by Alliance and a defeat there could add to confirmation of unionism’s decline as a force in British politics.

Sinn Féin meanwhile could come out on top by just holding on to its current tally of seven Westminster seats. However, the party is under pressure in two constituencies, the famously marginal Fermanagh/South Tyrone and in North Belfast, where John Finucane made a dramatic breakthrough for the party last time out.

The party’s decision to replace the well-known Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh/South Tyrone with Pat Cullen, the former general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, is a gamble that has become one of the biggest talking points of the election campaign – particularly Cullen’s links to the republican struggle, or lack of them.

Despite positive local election results, Cullen will face stiff competition from the Ulster Unionist Party’s Diana Armstrong, the single unionist candidate.

In Foyle, Sinn Fein’s is running Sandra Duffy in its latest bid to replace SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who regained the seat last time out after it was won by Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion in 2017. The party also has more distant hopes for a further ‘greening’ of the political map along the River Bann, and is hoping for close results in both East Derry and Upper Bann.

Irish unity has featured little in the election campaign, with both nationalist parties calling for steps towards a referendum on Irish unity, although Aontú created its own wave by calling for the introduction of checks on illegal immigrants crossing the Irish Sea.

Republican Sinn Féin, which is not contesting the Westminster election, lashed out at “jingoistic” campaign statements by Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie, among others.

“They are trying to hark back to Randolph Churchill’s call to arms, ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right’” they said.

They also condemned what they viewed as the unambitious political agenda of the nationalist parties.

“Easter 1916 leader, Commandant-General James Connolly warned, don’t be ‘practical’ in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines and in the grooves that those who rob you would desire you to think.”

Counting begins immediately after polls close at 10pm tonight, with exit polls in Britain due to be released at the time. First results are due to be announced shortly after midnight in England and early Friday morning for the north of Ireland.

The following are the candidates in each constituency in the north:

Belfast East

Séamas de Faoite - SDLP
Naomi Long - Alliance
Ryan North - Independent
Gavin Robinson - DUP
John Ross - TUV
Brian Smyth - Green Party
Ryan Warren - UUP

Belfast North

Phillip Brett - DUP
David Clarke - TUV
Fiona Ferguson - PBP
John Finucane - Sinn Féin
Nuala McAllister - Alliance
Mal O’Hara - Green Party
Carl Whyte - SDLP

Belfast South and Mid Down

Dan Boucher - TUV
Áine Groogan - Green Party
Claire Hanna - SDLP
Michael Henderson - UUP
Tracy Kelly - DUP
Kate Nicholl - Alliance

Belfast West

Gerry Carroll - PBP
Paul Doherty - SDLP
Gerard Herdman - Aontú
Ash Jones - Green Party
Tony Mallon - Independent
Paul Maskey - Sinn Féin
Ann McClure - TUV
Frank McCoubrey - DUP
Eóin Millar - Alliance
Ben Sharkey - UUP

East Antrim

Mark Bailey - Green Party
Danny Donnelly - Alliance
Margaret Anne McKillop - SDLP
Oliver McMullan - Sinn Féin
John Stewart - UUP
Matthew Warwick - TUV
Sammy Wilson - DUP

East Derry

Gemma Brolly - Aontú
Gregory Campbell - DUP
Cara Hunter - SDLP
Allister Kyle - TUV
Jen McCahon - Green Party
Kathleen McGurk - Sinn Féin
Glen Miller - UUP
Claire Scull - Conservative
Richard Stewart - Alliance

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

Diana Armstrong - UUP
Paul Blake - SDLP
Gerry Cullen - CCLA
Pat Cullen - Sinn Féin
Carl Duffy - Aontú
Eddie Roofe - Alliance


John Boyle - Aontú
Sandra Duffy - Sinn Féin
Colum Eastwood - SDLP
Rachel Ferguson - Alliance
Shaun Harkin - PBP
Anne McCloskey - Independent
Gary Middleton - DUP
Janice Montgomery - UUP

Lagan Valley

Jonathan Buckley - DUP
Robbie Butler - UUP
Patricia Denvir - Green Party
Sorcha Eastwood - Alliance
Simon Lee - SDLP
Lorna Smyth - TUV

Mid Ulster

Jay Basra - UUP
Keith Buchanan - DUP
Padraic Farrell - Alliance
Alixandra Halliday - Aontú
Denise Johnston - SDLP
John Kelly - Independent
Cathal Mallaghan - Sinn Féin
Glenn Moore - TUV

Newry and Armagh

Pete Byrne - SDLP
Dáire Hughes - Sinn Féin
Sam Nicholson - UUP
Keith Ratcliffe - TUV
Samantha Rayner - Conservative
Liam Reichenberg - Aontú
Gareth Wilson - DUP
Helena Young - Alliance

North Antrim

Jim Allister - TUV
Helen Maher - SDLP
Phillip McGuigan - Sinn Féin
Ráichéal Mhic Niocaill - Aontú
Jackson Minford - UUP
Tristan Morrow - Independent
Sian Mulholland - Alliance Ian Paisley - DUP

North Down

Chris Carter - Independent
Tim Collins - UUP
Alex Easton - Independent
Stephen Farry - Alliance
Barry McKee - Green Party
Deirdre Vaughan - SDLP

South Antrim

John Blair - Alliance
Paul Girvan - DUP
Declan Kearney - Sinn Féin
Mel Lucas - TUV
Roisin Lynch - SDLP
Siobhan McErlean - Aontú
Robin Swann - UUP
Lesley Veronica - Green Party

South Down

Diane Forsythe - DUP
Chris Hazzard - Sinn Féin
Rosemary McGlone - Aontú
Colin McGrath - SDLP
Andrew McMurray - Alliance
Michael O’Loan - UUP
Declan Walsh - Green Party
Jim Wells - TUV
Hannah Westropp - Conservative


Alexandra Braidner - Green Party
Gareth Burns - Independent
Garreth Falls - Independent
Michelle Guy - Alliance
Barry Hetherington - Conservative
Ron McDowell - TUV
Will Polland - SDLP
Noel Sands - Sinn Féin
Jim Shannon - DUP
Richard Smart - UUP

Upper Bann

Kate Evans - UUP
Carla Lockhart - DUP
Catherine Nelson - Sinn Féin
Malachy Quinn - SDLP
Eóin Tennyson - Alliance

West Tyrone

Órfhlaith Begley - Sinn Féin
Matthew Bell - UUP
Tom Buchanan - DUP
Stephen Donnelly - Alliance
Leza Houston - Aontú
Stephen Lynch - Conservatives
Daniel McCrossan - SDLP
Stevan Patterson - TUV

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