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We finish this tour of the Northern Ireland constituencies with South Belfast, where I grew up. It elected two Unionists in 2016 with 36.1% of first preferences, two Nationalists with 34.2%, one Alliance with 16.4% and one Green with 9.6%.

2016 result
DUP 8,081 (22.0%, -2.3%) 2 seats (+1)
UUP 2,466 (6.7%, /6.9%) 0 seats (-1)
UKIP 794 (2.2%, +1.5%)
TUV 495 (1.3%)
Ind 475 (1.3%)
PUP 430 (1.2%)
SBU 351 (1.0%)
Conservative 161 (0.4%)

Alliance 6,023 (16.4%, -3.4%) 1 seat
Green 3,521 (9.6%, +6.8%) 1 seat (+1)
CCLA 871 (2.4%)
NILRC 246 (0.7%)
WP 241 (0.7%, +0.3%)

SDLP 7,361 (20.0%, -3.9%) 1 seat (-1)
Sinn Féin 5,207 (14.2%, +1.7%) 1 seat
2017 candidates
@Emma Little Pengelly (DUP)
@Christopher Stalford (DUP)
Michael Henderson (UUP)
John Hiddleston (TUV)
George Jabbour (Cons)

@Paula Bradshaw (Alliance)
Emmet McDonough-Brown (Alliance)
@Clare Bailey (Green)
Sean Burns (CCLA)
Lily Kerr (WP)
Pádraigín Mervin (PBPA)

Naomh Gallagher (SDLP)
@Claire Hanna (SDLP)
@Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (SF)


All six incumbents are standing for re-election; both the incumbent MLAs and the fourteen candidates are equally divided by gender. The DUP are defending their two seats with 1.3 quotas. The SDLP is defending its seat with 1.2 quotas, Alliance on just under a quota, SF on 0.9 of a quota,and the Greens on 0.6 of a quota. In 2016 there were 2.16 quotas of Unionist votes and 2.05 quotas of Nationalist votes.

Although there are more than two Unionist quotas, I have a gut feeling that the DUP may be the ones in trouble here, as the only party defending a second seat in the constituency; it is generally easier to defend one seat from 0.6 of a quota, as the Greens must do, than to defend two with 1.3 quotas, and Unionist voters here have been fickle with their transfers. This is one seat where I can see some potential traction for Mike Nesbitt's suggestion that UUP voters transfer to the SDLP.

Having said that, there will be a lot of transferring votes flying around, and it could be that if the SDLP or Alliance (or indeed the DUP) manage a precise split of their votes between two candidates, they could pull off an unexpected second seat. This is a very volatile and mobile constituency, and anything could happen.

We'll find out on 3 and 4 March.

East Belfast elected four Unionists in 2016 with 56.7% of first preferences, and Alliance got the remaining two starting with 28.7%. The Nationalist vote was 2.9%.

2016 result
DUP 13,643 (36.7%, -7.3%) 3 seats
UUP 4,142 (11.1%, +1.4%) 1 seat
PUP 1,772 (4.8%, +0.2%)
TUV 887 (2.4%, +0.2%)
UKIP 631 (1.7%)
Cons 477 (1.3%)

Alliance 10,659 (28.7%, +2.4%) 2 seats
Green 2,183 (5.9%, +4.1%)
Ind 1,099 (3.0%)
CCLA 517 (1.4%)
NILRC 78 (0.2%)

SF 946 (2.5%, -0.7%)
SDLP 141 (0.4%, -0.4%)
2017 candidates
@Joanne Bunting (DUP)
David Douglas (DUP)
@Robin Newton (DUP)
@Andy Allen (UUP)
Andrew Girvin (TUV)
John Kyle (PUP)
Sheila Bodel (Cons)

@Naomi Long (Alliance)
@Chris Lyttle (Alliance)
Georgina Milne (Green)
Courtney Robinson (CCLA)
Jordy McKeag (Independent)

Séamus de Faoite (SDLP)
Mairéad O'Donnell (SF)


Five of the six incumbents are standing for re-election, with one DUP retirement. The DUP are defending three seats with 2.2 quotas; Alliance are defending two with 1.7 quotas; and the UUP one with 0.7 of a quota. In 2016 there were 3.4 Unionist quotas, and 0.5 of a quota of Nationalist votes. It therefore looks like the third DUP seat is the most vulnerable; the Alliance position will be strengthened by Nationalist and other transfers. Having said that, the Greens performed relatively well here in 2016 and may be a force to watch in the future.

Interesting Links for 20-02-2017

Sunday reading

Current
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
To Lie with Lions, by Dorothy Dunnett
Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript, by Justin Richards

Last books finished
THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the U.K., 1930-1980, by Rob Hansen
Short Trips: Time Signature, ed. Simon Guerrier
Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch
The Raven and the Reindeer, by T. Kingfisher [Ursula Vernon]
The Eye of the Tyger, by Paul McAuley
The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown (did not finish)

Last week's audios
The King of Sontar, by John Dorney
White Ghosts, by Alan Barnes

Next books
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
The Habit of Loving, by Doris Lessing
The Parrot's Theorem, by Denis Guedj

Books acquired in last week
Based on the Popular TV Serial: A Comprehensive Guide to the Novelisations of Broadcast Doctor Who, by Paul Smith
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
A Closed and Common Orbit, by  Becky Chambers
Occupy Me, by Tricia Sullivan
Europe in Winter, by Dave Hutchinson
Daughter of Eden, by Chris Beckett
Azanian Bridges, by Nick Wood
North Belfast is the most divided part of the city, Unionists and Nationalists winning three seats each here in 2016 with 47.7% and 37.1% respectively.

2016 result
DUP 12,783 (35.0%, -2.1%) 3 seats
UUP 1,972 (5.4%, -2.8%)
PUP 1,238 (3.4%)
UKIP 751 (2.1%)
TUV 644 (1.8%)

Alliance 2,569 (7.0%, +0.9%)
PBP 1,286 (3.5%)
Green 796 (2.2%)
WP 476 (1.3%, +0.3%)
Inds 330 (0.9%)
NILRC 127 (0.3%)
NI First 32 (0.1%)

SF 9,704 (26.5%, -5.4%) 2 seats
SDLP 3,866 (10.6%, -1.4%) 1 seat
2017 candidates
@Paula Bradley (DUP)
@William Humphrey (DUP)
@Nelson McCausland (DUP)
Robert Foster (UUP)
Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston (PUP)

Nuala McAllister (Alliance)
Malachai O'Hara (Green)
Gemma Weir (WP)
Fiona Ferguson (PBP)
Adam Miller (Independent)

@Nichola Mallon (SDLP)
@Gerry Kelly (SF)
@Carál Ní Chuilín (Sinn Féin)


All six incumbent MLAs are standing again; three of them are women, and indeed this is the only constituency where women candidates outnumber men (by 7 to 6).

The DUP are defending three seats with 2.1 quotas; SF are defending two seats with 1.6 quotas; and the SDLP are defending their seat with 0.6 of a quota. In 2016 there were 2.9 Unionist quotas and only 2.2 Nationalist quotas on the first count; the gap narrowed but did not close in subsequent counts.

Two of the three DUP seats are safe, and one of the two SF seats likewise. There is probably a third Unionist seat, but it is not clear who is best placed to win it. On paper, the DUP were so far in advance of the other parties last time that they should be considered to have a strong position this time, but I hear that they are under pressure.

On the non-Unionist side, the SDLP seat is weakest but it is nonetheless tough for SF to keep both of theirs. Alliance were runners-up last time; if they are eliminated this time, their votes will help the SDLP. On the other hand, the reverse may also be the case; Alliance were not far behind last time, and have pulled off unexpected gains from a low base in North Belfast before. (Though notably not in 1996, as I have personal cause to remember.)

I guess an SDLP loss is the most likely outcome; but things are very finely balanced.

#AE17 Upper Bann: UUP most likely to lose.

Upper Bann stretches from the southern shore of Lough Neagh, through Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown to Banbridge and my ancestral home of Loughbrickland. In 2016 Unionists won four seats with 59.3% of the vote, and Nationalists won two with 34.4%.

2016 result
DUP 14,188 (31.1%, +4.0%) 2 seats
UUP 9,884 (21.6%, -3.0%) 2 seats
TUV 1,177 (2.6%, +0.2%)
UKIP 1,072 (2.3%, +1.7%)
PUP 704 (1.5%)
Conservatives 79 (0.2%)

Alliance 1,424 (3.1%, -3.4%)
CISTA 672 (1.5%)
Green 495 (1.1%)
NI Labour 250 (0.5%)
Independent 33 (0.1%)

Sinn Féin 11,373 (24.9%, -2.3%) 2 seats (+1)
SDLP 4,335 (9.5%, -1.9%) (-1)
2017 candidates
@Carla Lockhart (DUP)
Jonathan Buckley (DUP)
@Doug Beattie (UUP)
@Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP)
Roy Ferguson (TUV)
Ian Nickels (Cons)

Tara Doyle (Alliance)
Simon Lee (Green)
Colin Craig (WP)

Dolores Kelly (SDLP)
@John O'Dowd (SF)
Nuala Toman (SF)


Only four incumbents are running for re-election here (the lowest anywhere), with retirements from both the DUP and SF. The DUP, UUP and SF are all defending two seats with 1.9, 1.5 and 1.3 quotas respectively. In 2016 there were 3.6 Unionist quotas and 2.1 Nationalist quotas.

On the Nationalist side, SF will need to hold heir vote share and balance ahead of the SDLP to keep both seats, but after several unsuccessful attempts they seem now to have got the knack. However, a change of SF personnel will not help and we can't exclude the SDLP making a return.

On the Unionist side, this is a seat where the UUP should be looking to start their renewal. The DUP position is not unassailable, and again the change of personnel won't help. But starting from where we are, the UUP's second seat is clearly the most vulnerable.

BSFA shortlist

As usual, I've run the books on the Arthur C. Clarke Award submission list through Goodreads and LibraryThing to see how many people have registered copies on each system (NB you have to dig down a level for this on Goodreads) and what the average rating of each book is. They are listed below by (geometric) average number of owners on the two systems. The top quartile, more or less, is bolded in each column (and for Goodreads ratings, anything over 4).

A couple of additions to my reading list, I think.

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Fermanagh and South Tyrone is the south-western corner of Northern Ireland. In 2016, Nationalists and Unionists divided the seats three each, with Nationalists a whisker ahead in votes, 48.4% to 47.9%.

2016 result
DUP 15,403 (32.6%, +8.2%) 2 seats
UUP 6,028 (12.8%, -6.5%) 1 seat
TUV 1,164 (2.5%, -0.1%)

Green 897 (1.9%)
Alliance 539 (1.1%, -0.7%)
NI Labour 285 (0.6%)

Sinn Féin 18,847 (39.9%, -0.4%) 2 seats (-1)
SDLP 4,014 (8.5%, -1.1%) 1 seat (+1)
2017 candidates
@Arlene Foster (DUP)
@[Lord] Maurice Morrow (DUP)
@Rosemary Barton (UUP)
Alex Elliott (TUV)
Richard Dunn (Cons)

Noreen Campbell (Alliance)
Tanya Jones (Green)
Donal O'Cofaigh (CCLA)

@Richie McPhillips (SDLP)
Jemma Dolan (SF)
@Michelle Gildernew (SF)
@Sean Lynch (SF)


All six incumbents are standing again. There is an even gender split both among incumbent MLAs and among the 14 candidates.

SF and the DUP are defending two seats each on 2.4 and 2.0 quotas respectively; the UUP and SDLP are defending theirs on 0.8 of a quota and 0.5. In 2016 there were 2.88 Unionist quotas and 2.90 Nationalist quotas, so it looks very tight; the scramble for the last seat could be very close indeed.

But I'm calling this as a likely SDLP loss. It's not just that Unionists tend to be better at internal transfers than Nationalists, but it's also important to note that McPhillips owed his seat in 2016 to UUP transfers which came to him once there were no Unionist candidates left in the race, and this year there will be no such spare Unionist votes for him to sweep up.

Having said that, the UUP position is surprisingly precarious for a seat that they hold at Westminster.

South Antrim unites Antrim town with the western fringes of Newtownabbey, running to the northen and northeastern shores of Lough Neagh. Unionists won four seats here in 2016 with 65.3% of the vote; Nationalists won one with 22.8%; and Alliance held theirs with 8.9%.

2016 result
DUP 13,188 (37.5%, -0.8%) 3 seats
UUP 7,792 (22.2%, +4.4%) 1 seat
TUV 1318 (3.8%, +0.4%)
UKIP 574 (1.6%)
Conservatives 72 (0.2%)

Alliance 3119 (8.9%, -5.6%) 1 seat
Green 589 (1.7%)
Independent 483 (1.4%)

Sinn Féin 4,632 (13.2%, -1.3%) 1 seat
SDLP 3,366 (9.6%, -1.0%)
2017 candidates
@Pam Cameron (DUP)
@Trevor Clarke (DUP)
@Paul Girvan (DUP)
@Stephen Aiken (UUP)
Adrian Cochrane-Watson (UUP)
Richard Cairns (TUV)
Mark Logan (Cons)

@David Ford (Alliance)
Eleanor Bailey (Green)
Ivana Antova (PBPA)
David McMaster (Ind)

Roisin Lynch (SDLP)
@Declan Kearney (Sinn Féin)


All six incumbents are standing for re-election. The DUP are defending three seats with 2.3 quotas; the UUP are defending their seat with 1.3 quotas. SF and Alliance are on 0.8 and 0.5 of a quota respectively. In 2016 there were 3.8 Unionist quotas and 1.4 Nationalist quotas.

Alliance on paper look like they have the toughest defence, but in practice they need only stay in the race long enough to benefit from spare Nationalist transfers. Their position is nonetheless vulnerable to even a small drop in support.

Sinn Fein's seat looks pretty safe, and the UUP are surely certain to hold theirs, so the most vulnerable on the Unionist side is surely the third DUP seat - 2.3 quotas is a bad position to defend three seats from (in North Down, where they are starting with a higher vote share, they are not even trying). Also in line with the (very limited) information I've been getting from the doorsteps, I'm calling this as a likely DUP loss.

The top names in my address book

Something a little different for a Saturday morning.

I browsed through my address book, looking for the most frequent first names and surnames of people who I know. There were around 3,000 first names and 6,000 surnames altogether (of 7,500 contacts). The list below has the top 55 first names and top 57 surnames (I was aiming for top 50, and this was the closest I could get that was reasonably neat). The first names cover 1700 of my contacts; the surnames only 500 - so surnames vary a lot more than first names; the top surname occurs 19 times, the top first name 104. I did not break down by gender overall, but 38 of those first names are generally male, 16 generally female, and Chris, Alex and Jan might be either (though most of them on my list are men) - so women's names vary a lot more than men's names; the top male name appears 104 times, the top female and might-be-either names both 34. At the other end of the scale, not shown here, there were 2000 unique first names and 5,200 unique surnames.

I know two Andrew Smiths, two Paul Taylors and three Andrew Wilsons. (Down the list a bit, I also know two Siobhan McKennas.) I do actually know a David Smith, combining the top first name and surname in the table. There are some other neat coinidences reading across - Peter Robinson, Stephen King. Some of the surnames (Murray, Whyte, Mace, and Minchin) are boosted by my relatives.

The results are more Anglophone than I had anticipated, with Schneider, Meyer, Cohen and Frank the only surnames not of obvious British/Irish origin in the top 50 (Klein, Ahmed and Hartmann just missed at 5 each, and actually although Minchin often is a English-origin name, in this case it's originally from elsewhere). Stefan is the only first name in the top 50 with a non-English spelling (again, next step down would have had Andreas and Ana-with-one-"n" on 15; the top Irish name, Sean, was on 13, with Niall and Fiona on 10; a lot of names of course have a standard spelling in other languages which is the same as English). I guess that although I know a lot of people from non-English speaking countries, I don't know enough from any one of those countries for them to be visible at this level. (As already mentioned, Ana was a near miss at 15; Tanja and Goran a little further down at 12; the top Slavic surname is Ivanov at only 4.)

Anyway, a harmless and mildly amusing bit of number-crunching.

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West Tyrone includes the towns of Strabane and Omagh. In 2016, the Nationalist parties won four seats with 53% of the vote and transfers from Nationalist-leaning independents, and Unionists won the other two with 33.5%.

2016 result
DUP 8,534 (22.0%, -1.1%) 1 seat
UUP 4,441 (11.4%, +1.0%) 1 seat
Conservative 44 (0.1%)

CISTA 547 (1.4%)
Alliance 494 (1.3%, -0.9%)
Green 458 (1.2%)
Animal Welfare 224 (0.6%)

Sinn Féin 16,304 (42.0%, -7.9%) 3 seats
SDLP 4,287 (11.0%, +2.5%) 1 seat
Independents 3,476 (9.0%)
2017 candidates
@Thomas Buchanan (DUP)
Alicia Clarke (UUP)
Charlie Chittick (TUV)
Roger Lomas (Cons)

Stephen Donnelly (Alliance)
Ciaran McClean (Green)
Barry Brown (CISTA)
Corey French (Ind)

Sorcha McAnespy (Ind)
Roisin McMackin (Ind)
Susan-Anne White (Ind)
@Daniel McCrossan (SDLP)
@Michaela Boyle (SF)
@Declan McAleer (SF)
@Barry McElduff (SF)


Five of the six incumbent MLAs are running for re-election, the exception being the UUP who have a new face. There fifteen candidates in all, a record shared with East Antrim and East Londonderry. SF are defending three seats with 2.5 quotas; the DUP are defending one seat with 1.3 quotas; and the UUP and SDLP are each defending their seats with 0.7 of a quota. In 2016 there were just over 2.0 quotas of votes for Unionist parties, and 3.2 for Nationalist parties (not counting the 0.5 of a quota for independent candidates).

The two Unionist seats therefore look just about safe - in a good year, the DUP could hope to balance two ahead of the UUP, but you need two candidates for that and they have only one.

It's much more difficult to read the Nationalist side. Both the SDLP and SF start with tough defences, but the two former SDLP candidates from last time have not quit the scene (whereas the one ex-SF candidate is still running). If the vote share does not change at all, perfect balancing from SF could keep three candidates ahead of the SDLP's one, but this is very difficult to achieve, and so my gut feeling is that SF's third seat is the most vulnerable.

I am not in the habit of saluting particular candidates here, but I want to give a shout to independent candidate Roisin McMacken, who has four children with autism and learning disabilities and is campaigning in order to highlight the lack of services provided for families in her situation in Northern Ireland (among other issues, but for obvious reasons this was what caught my eye). Roisin, you have all my sympathy and respect; I think it is unlikely that you will win, but I hope you are able to make enough of a fuss to improve things. I am fortunate enough to live in Belgium, where we still have a welfare state, and I am confident that my own children have the services that they need. Please keep fighting.

East Londonderry includes the towns of Coleraine and Limavady. In 2016, Unionists won four seats with 63.6% of the vote, and Nationalists won the other two with 31.3%.

2016 result
DUP 12,674 (36.8%, -0.1%) 3 seats
Independents 3,331 (9.7%, +1.2%) 1 seat
UUP 2,856 (8.3%, -0.1%)
PUP 1,356 (3.9%)
TUV 1,191 (3.5%, -1.0%)
UKIP 274 (0.8%)
Conservative 266 (0.8%)

Alliance 1,257 (3.7%, -1.8%)
Green 434 (1.3%)

SF 7,495 (21.8%, +0.7%) 1 seat
SDLP 3,265 (9.5%, -5.4%) 1 seat
2017 candidates
@Maurice Bradley (DUP)
@Adrian McQuillan (DUP)
@George Robinson (DUP)
William McCandless (UUP)
Jordan Armstrong (TUV)
Russell Watton (PUP)
David Harding (Conservative)
@Claire Sugden (Independent)

Chris McCaw (Alliance)
Anthony Flynn (Green)
Gavin Campbell (PBPA)

@Gerry Mullan (Ind)
John Dallat (SDLP)
@Caoimhe Archibald (SF)
Cathal Ó hOisín (SF)


All six incumbent MLAs are running for re-election, including Gerry Mullan who was deselected by the SDLP. East Londonderry has the melancholy distinction of the malest ballot paper in the election, at thirteen out of fifteen - several other constituencies have only two women candidates, but they all have fewer men. At least the two women standing here are both incumbents.

The DUP are defending three seats with 2.2 quotas, SF are defending their seat with 1.2 quotas, and Claire Sugden and the SDLP are defending their seats with 0.6 of a quota each. In 2016 there were 3.8 Unionist quotas (counting Claire Sugden) and 1.9 Nationalist quotas. It therefore looks very tight indeed.

Given the stronger internal transfer tradition among Unionists, the difficulty for SF of balancing two candidates ahead of the SDLP, and also the SDLP's challenge from their own former incumbent, my gut feeling is that it is a Nationalist seat which will be lost, and more likely the SDLP who will lose it.

But it is not at all a done deal. It could easily be the Unionists who lose out, either the third DUP seat or independent Justice Minister Claire Sugden. And even if all four Unionist seats are retained, the UUP lost here through sheer carelessness in 2011 and are not that far behind. I find this one of the most difficult constituencies to call in the entire election.

Interesting Links for 17-02-2017

Perched on the western shore of Lough Neagh, Mid Ulster includes Magherafelt, Cookstown and Coalisland. 61.9% of the vote got Nationalists four MLAs last time, with Unionists winning the other two with 35.2%.

2016 result
DUP 7,393 (18.1%, +1.4%) 1 seat
UUP 4,862 (11.9%, +1.6%) 1 seat
TUV 1,877 (4.6%, -0.3%)
UKIP 256 (0.6%)

Alliance 471 (1.2%, +0.3%)
Green 349 (0.9%)
Workers' Party 316 (0.8%)

Sinn Féin 19,015 (46.7%, -2.5%) 3 seats
SDLP 6,209 (15.2%, +0.5%) 1 seat
2017 candidates
@Keith Buchanan (DUP)
@Sandra Overend (UUP)
Hannah Loughrin (TUV)

Fay Watson (Alliance)
Stefan Taylor (Green)
Hugh Scullion (WP)
Hugh McCloy (Ind)

@Patsy McGlone (SDLP)
@Linda Dillon (SF)
@Ian Milne (SF)
@Michelle O'Neill (SF)


All six incumbent MLAs are seeking re-election. SF are defending three seats with 2.8 quotas; the DUP are defending one with 1.1 quotas; the SDLP and UUP are defending theirs respectively with 0.9 and 0.7 of a quota. In 2016 there were 2.1 Unionist quotas and 3.7 Nationalist quotas.

The two Unionist seats look safe enough (the UUP perhaps a little more precarious), so the seat lost is more likely to be a Nationalist one. SF have two safe, but have a more difficult challenge for the third; it will take mathematically precise balancing, which is very difficult to pull off in a constituency where the new leader may prove a vote magnet, so my gut feeling is that they are more likely to lose out and the SDLP will probably survive here.

North Down is the wealthy coastal fringe east of Belfast. Unionists won four seats here in 2016 with 63.3% of the vote; the total Nationalist vote was a microscopic 2.3%. Alliance and the Greens won the other two seats with 16.8% and 12.7% respectively.

2016 result
DUP 13,446 (41.7%, -2.5%) 3 seats
UUP 4,987 (15.5%, +5.1%) 1 seat
UKIP 681 (2.1%, -0.1%)
Conservatives 672 (2.1%)
TUV 610 (1.9%)

Alliance 5,399 (16.8%, -1.8%) 1 seat
Green 4,109 (12.7%, +4.8%) 1 seat
Independent 1,415 (4.4%)
NI Labour 177 (0.5%)

SDLP 426 (1.3%, -1.4%)
Sinn Féin 307 (1.0%, no change)
2017 candidates
@Gordon Dunne (DUP)
@Alex Easton (DUP)
@Alan Chambers (UUP)
William Cudworth (UUP)
Frank Shivers (Cons)

@Stephen Farry (Alliance)
@Steven Agnew (Green)
Chris Carter (Ind)
Melanie Kennedy (Ind)
Gavan Reynolds (Ind)

Caoimhe McNeill (SDLP)
Kieran Maxwell (SF)


All six MLAs elected in 2016 are standing again, but Peter Weir of the DUP has transferred to the neighbouring constituency of Strangford. There are only two women among the 12 candidates. The DUP are defending three seats with 2.5 quotas here and, crucially, only two candidates; Alliance are defending theirs with just over a full quota, the UUP are defending theirs with just over one full quota, and the Greens start with 0.8 of a quota. In 2016 there were 3.8 Unionist quotas and 0.1 of a quota for the Nationalist parties.

On the face of it, therefore, the most likely outcome is that the DUP hold two seats easily, having already conceded their third, and the remaining three incumbents also hold theirs. But this is a very fissile and sometimes volatile constituency, which has been represented at Westminster by independents or micro-parties for thirty of the last forty years, so anything is possible. (And by "anything" I guess I mean a resurgent UUP taking one of the non-aligned seats.)

Interesting Links for 16-02-2017

Foyle is essentially the city of Derry. The Nationalist parties got four seats with 58.5% of the vote last time, boosted by independents who were mostly from a similar part of the spectrum; Unionists got one with 18.5%, and the People Before Profit Alliance broke through to take the last seat with 10.5%.

2016 result
DUP 4737 (11.9%, -6.5%) 1 seat
UUP 1420 (3.6%)
Conservative 36 (0.1%)

Independents 5485 (13.9%)
People Before Profit 4176 (10.5%, +2.5%) 1 seat (+1)
CISTA 259 (0.7%)
Alliance 238 (0.6%, -0.3%)
Green 157 (0.4%)

SDLP 11897 (30.0%, -5.3%) 2 seats (-1)
Sinn Féin 11297 (28.5%, -5.5%) 2 seats
2017 candidates
@Gary Middleton (DUP)
Julia Kee (UUP)
Stuart Canning (Cons)

Colm Cavanagh (Alliance)
Shannon Downey (Green)
John Lindsay (CISTA)
@Eamonn McCann (PBPA)
Arthur McGuinness (Ind)

@Mark H. Durkan (SDLP)
@Colum Eastwood (SDLP)
Elisha McCallion (SF)
@Raymond McCartney (SF)


Five of the six incumbents are standing again, with SF's Martin McGuinness retiring. The SDLP and SF are defending two seats each with 1.8 and 1.7 quotas respectively; the DUP and PBPA are defending their seats with 0.7 and 0.6 of a quota each. In 2016 there were 1.1 Unionist quotas (counting the votes of a former DUP independent) and 3.5 quotas for the Nationalist parties (not counting the independents, or PBPA who do not designate as Nationalists in the Assembly).

The DUP seat therefore looks pretty safe; on paper, the SDLP and SF should be able to divide the other four evenly between them, shutting out the PBPA. But it will take good balancing and there is little room for manoeuvre. If Eamonn McCann does hold his seat, SF are more likely than the SDLP to lose out, having (slightly) fewer numbers to start with, with their best-known figure no longer on the scene, and being less likely than the SDLP to benefit from transfers from other parties.

East Antrim is the coastal strip of the county from Newtownabbey to the Glens. Unionists won only four seats here in 2016 with 69.6% of the vote; Nationalists succeeded in retaining one with 11.9%; and Alliance kept theirs with 14.6%.

2016 result
DUP 11,701 (36.1%, -10.1%) 3 seats
UUP 6,552 (20.2%, +3.3%) 1 seat
UKIP 2,207 (6.8%)
TUV 1,643 (5.1%, +0.5%)
PUP 455 (1.4%)

Alliance 4,747 (14.6%, -0.9%) 1 seat
Green 693 (2.1%, -0.2%)
CCLP 551 (1.7%)

SF 2,633 (8.1%, -0.1%) 1 seat
SDLP 1,229 (3.8%, -0.8%)
2017 candidates
@David Hilditch (DUP)
@Gordon Lyons (DUP)
Stephen Ross (DUP)
@Roy Beggs (UUP)
John Stewart (UUP)
Ruth Wilson (TUV)
Noel Jordan (UKIP)
Alan Dunlop (Conservative)

@Stewart Dickson (Alliance)
Danny Donnelly (Alliance)
Dawn Patterson (Green)
Conor Sheridan (Cross Community Labour Alternative)
Ricky Best (Ind)

Margaret McKillop (SDLP)
@Oliver McMullan (SF)


Five out of six incumbents are standing again, with a DUP retirement. There are fifteen candidates in total, a record shared with East Londonderry and West Tyrone. The DUP are defending three seats with less than 2.2 quotas; the UUP, Alliance and SF are defending their seats with 1.2 quotas, 0.9 of a quota and 0.5 of a quota respectively. So two DUP seats are safe, and so in principle are the UUP and Alliance seats - though frankly I think the latter are taking an unnecessary risk by running two candidates with less than a quota between them.

It's much more difficult to see SF's path to retaining their seat, and my gut feeling is that the last seat will be a Unionist one, with the DUP in a stronger position to hold their third than the UUP are to make a gain (or UKIP, who came within 105 votes of beating SF for the last seat last time). But a lot is going to depend on how the votes balance out between the candidates.

Interesting Links for 15-02-2017

Newry and Armagh includes most of the old County Armagh plus the town of Newry. 59.1% of the vote delivered four Nationalist MLAs in 2015, and 35.0% (counting in the votes for independent candidate and former DUP MLA Paul Berry) got Unionists two.

2016 result
DUP 7,980 (16.7%, +3.6%) 1 seat
UUP 6,745 (14.1%, -4.6%) 1 seat
UKIP 315 (0.7%)

Independents 2,603 (5.5%)
CISTA 1,032 (2.2%)
Alliance 493 (1.0%)
Green (NI) 335 (0.7%)

Sinn Féin 19,514 (40.9%, +0.1%) 3 seats
SDLP 8,698 (18.2%, -5.3%) 1 seat
2017 candidates
@William Irwin (DUP)
@Danny Kennedy (UUP)

Jackie Coade (Alliance)
Rowan Tunnicliffe (Green)
Emmet Crossan (CISTA)

@Justin McNulty (SDLP)
@Cathal Boylan (SF)
@Megan Fearon (SF)
@Conor Murphy (SF)


There are only nine candidates here (nowhere else has fewer than eleven), including all six incumbents but only two women. SF are defending three seats with 2.5 quotas; the SDLP have 1.1 quotas, the DUP almost exactly 1 quota, and the UUP 0.8 of a quota. In 2016 there were 2.1 Unionist quotas and 3.6 Nationalist quotas. Given those figures, SF's third seat looks tenable only in the event of an SDLP collapse.

Strangford is another heavily Unionist seat, taking in Newtownards, Comber, the Peninsula and Saintfield. 70.1% of the vote (and that doesn't include an independent from that part of the spectrum) delivered five Unionist MLAs last time, the combined Nationalist vote of 10.3% being less than Alliance's 10.7%, thus enabling Alliance to take the sixth seat.

2016 result
DUP 14,037 (43.0%, -5.8%) 3 seats
UUP 6,367 (19.5%, -0.9%) 2 seats
TUV 1,407 (4.3%, +1.5%)
UKIP 759 (2.3%, +0.3%)
Conservatives 314 (1.0%)

Alliance 3,499 (10.7%, -3.7%) 1 seat
Independents 1,947 (6.0%)
Green 924 (2.8%)

SDLP 2,724 (8.3%, -0.2%)
Sinn Féin 661 (2.0%, -1.0%)
2017 candidates
@Simon Hamilton (DUP)
@Michelle McIlveen (DUP)
^Peter Weir (DUP)
@Mike Nesbitt (UUP)
@Philip Smith (UUP)
Stephen Cooper (TUV)
Scott Benton (Cons)
@Jonathan Bell (Independent)
Jimmy Menagh (Ind)

@Kellie Armstrong (Alliance)
Ricky Bamford (Green)

Joe Boyle (SDLP)
Dermot Kennedy (SF)


Seven incumbent MLAs are standing here, the six elected in 2016 and Peter Weir, who is moving from neighbouring North Down. There are only two women among the thirteen candidates. Jonathan Bell, elected as DUP in 2016, is now running as an independent. The DUP are defending three seats with 2.6 quotas; the UUP are defending two seats with 1.2 quotas; and Alliance is defending its seat with 0.6 of a quota. In 2016 there were 4.2 Unionist quotas, not counting the independents, and 0.6 of a quota went to the Nationalist parties.

All three incumbent parties have difficult defences here. Six retiring Unionist MLAs are chasing four seats, so at least two of them will lose. A lot will depend on the performance of Jonathan Bell without a party machine behind him. I would not be totally surprised to see him take a seat and see both of the main Unionist parties lose out. Strangford has had an occasional maverick tendency.

The Alliance seat is more secure, provided that the party's vote share stays decently ahead of the SDLP. The SDLP have been runners-up here in all five Assembly elections since the Good Friday Agreement; the cut in the number of seats makes even holding that status a difficult challenge.

If North Antrim is Unionist heartland, West Belfast is the Republican heartland, with SF dominant for decades. Yet their vote share here in 2016 was the lowest since 1996, with the People Before Profit Alliance emerging as new challengers. The fact that the PBPA do not sit as Nationalists in Stormont knocked the Nationalist vote share here down to 61.8% which still delivered five MLAs, four SF and one SDLP. PBPA with 22.9% won their first seat, and the Unionists with 12.2% were not all that far off.

2016 result
DUP 3,766 (10.4%, +2.9%)
UUP 654 (1.8%, -2.4%)

PBP 8,299 (22.9%, +18.1%) 1 seat (+1)
WP 532 (1.5%, -0.2%)
Green 327 (0.9%)
Alliance 291 (0.8%, -0.3%)

Sinn Féin 19,752 (54.5%, -11.6%) 4 seats (-1)
SDLP 2,647 (7.3%, -5.9%) 1 seat
2017 candidates
Frank McCoubrey (DUP)
Fred Rogers (UUP)

Sorcha Eastwood (Alliance)
Ellen Murray (Green)
@Gerry Carroll (PBPA)
Michael Collins (PBPA)
Conor Campbell (WP)

@Alex Attwood (SDLP)
@Órlaithí Flynn (SF)
@Alex Maskey (SF)
@Fra McCann (SF)
@Pat Sheehan (SF)


All six incumbents are standing again (Órlaithí Flynn being a recent SF co-optee). SF are defending four seats on 3.3 quotas; the PBPA are defending their seat with 1.4 quotas; and the SDLP are defending theirs with 0.4 of a quota. In 2016 Unionist parties had 0.7 of a quota and Nationalist parties (not counting PBP, who do not designate as Nationalists in the Assembly) 3.7 quotas. On the face of it the PBPA seat looks safe, and indeed they are in a strong position to mount a challenge for a second one. SF have three safe, and the last will be a fight between the down-ticket fourth SF candidate and the SDLP, with the latter starting from a much weaker position - and there is always the possibility that both could lose out if the PBP vote is robust and well-managed, and the Unionists again do well enough to finish as runners-up (though that last is a tough proposition). If the SDLP fightback is to start anywhere, it must be here; otherwise they will lose representation in a seat which they held at Westminster twenty years ago.

North Antrim is the northeast corner of Northern Ireland, including the heartland towns of Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle. It had the second highest Unionist vote share in 2016 at 74.4%, narrowly pipped by Lagan Valley. That got five Unionist MLAs elected comfortably, and a 20.4% Nationalist vote elected one MLA from Sinn Fein.

2016 result
DUP 17,655 (43.1%, -4.5%) 3 seats
TUV 7,354 (17.9%, +6.2%) 1 seat
UUP 4,406 (10.7%, -1.0%) 1 seat
UKIP 1,027 (2.5%,)
Conservatives 92 (0.2%)

Alliance 1,318 (3.2%, -1.4%)
Green 513 (1.3%)
NI Labour 243 (0.6%)

Sinn Féin 5,297 (12.9%, -2.4%) 1 seat
SDLP 3,093 (7.5%, -1.6%)
2017 candidates
@Paul Frew (DUP)
@Phillip Logan (DUP)
@Mervyn Storey (DUP)
@Robin Swann (UUP)
@Jim Allister (TUV)
Timothy Gaston (TUV)

Patricia O'Lynn (Alliance)
Mark Bailey (Green)
Adam McBride (Ind)

Monica Digney (Ind)
Connor Duncan (SDLP)
@Philip McGuigan (SF)


All six incumbents are standing for re-election, SF's Philip McGuigan having replaced previous winner Daithi McKay a couple of months ago. There are only two women among the twelve candidates. The DUP are defending three seats with 2.6 quotas; the TUV are defending theirs with 1.1 quotas; and SF and the UUP are defending theirs with 0.8 and 0.6 of a quota respectively. In 2016 there were 4.5 Unionist quotas and 1.2 Nationalist quotas.

On the face of it, the TUV and SF seats look pretty safe (even with a former SF member standing as an independent), and the question is whether the DUP will make a clean sweep of the other three, or the UUP will manage to hang on (I suppose theoretically the second TUV runner might have a chance, but that would require better balancing than they have demonstrated hitherto). In theory, perfect vote management could keep the DUP ahead; in practice, I think their third seat is the most vulnerable of the current six.

Sunday reading

Current
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the U.K., 1930-1980, by Rob Hansen
To Lie with Lions, by Dorothy Dunnett
Broken Homes, by Ben Aaronovitch
Short Trips: Time Signature, ed. Simon Guerrier

Next books
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
The Parrot's Theorem, by Denis Guedj
The Eye of the Tyger, by Paul McAuley
South Down, Northern Ireland's southeastern corner including Downpatrick, Newcastle and the Mournes, was Northern Ireland's most Nationalist constituency at the last Assembly election (Foyle and West Belfast, normally well ahead on that score, voted in unprecedented numbers for the non-aligned People Before Politics). 62.5% of the vote elected four Nationalist MLAs, two SDLP and two SF. 30.2% 27.4% elected two Unionists, one DUP and one UUP. Alliance got 5.4% and the Greens 2.0%.

2016 result
DUP 5,033 (12.3%, -0.2%) 1 seat
UUP 3,481 (8.5%, -2.1%) 1 seat
TUV 2,718 (6.6%)

Alliance 2,200 (5.4%, +3.3%)
Green 820 (2.0%, -0.7%)
Independent 1,156 (2.8%)

SDLP 12,911 (31.4%, -4.4%) 2 seats
Sinn Féin 12,756 (31.1%, +0.2%) 2 seats
2017 candidates
@Jim Wells (DUP)
@Harold McKee (UUP)
Lyle Rea (TUV)
Gary Hynds (Cons)

Patrick Brown (Alliance)
Hannah George (Green)
Patrick Clarke (Ind)

@Sinead Bradley (SDLP)
@Colin McGrath (SDLP)
Sinead Ennis (SF)
@Chris Hazzard (SF)


Five of the incumbent MLAs are standing again, with one retirement from Sinn Fein. The SDLP and SF are both defending two seats with 1.9 quotas; the DUP and UUP are defending theirs with 0.7 and 0.5 of a quota respectively. In 2016 there were 1.8 1.6 Unionist quotas and 3.8 Nationalist quotas, which on the face of it makes the battle not to come sixth a very close one.

Edited to add: I had missed the crucial fact that the votes cast for independent candidate John McCallister in 2016 (he had been elected as UUP in 2007 and 2011, and was subsequently deputy leader of NI21 until its collapse) largely failed to transfer to anyone, and therefore cannot really be counted as Unionist votes. Taking that into account knocks Unionists down to 1.6 quotas, which significantly changes my analysis. I'm keeping my original text below, but struck through.

Unionists tend to be better at internal transfers, so my hunch would be that the seat lost is a Nationalist one. The SDLP and SF were very close to each other last time; it will very much come down to which of them balances their votes better. SF are starting from behind on two counts - slightly fewer votes in the first place, and a long-standing incumbent retiring. On the other hand, SF have been consistently better at managing their votes, here and elsewhere. It may turn into a nail-biter.

Less so, I think on the Unionist side, provided the vote holds up overall. The TUV have swapped out well-known local figure Henry Reilly for Lyle Rea, who stood and lost in Lagan Valley last time, and the Conservatives are also standing someone, but I expect the vote for the two incumbents to consolidate, and it may prove easier for two Unionist parties to get two people elected on 1.9 quotas than for one Nationalist party to do the same. Still, there are a lot of ifs in that; we may find the second Unionist, the second SDLP and the second SF candidates all very close to each other for the final seat.


As noted above, Unionists combined will struggle to elect a second MLA here, and the UUP start from much the worse position. Transfers from non-aligned parties have tended to favour the SDLP here in the past. So it looks rather likely that the UUP will lose out, though one can't discount the possibility of imbalance between candidates on the Nationalist side making the final counts exciting.

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