February 14th, 2017


#AE17 Strangford: Could both UUP and DUP lose out to Bell?

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.


#AE17 Newry and Armagh: SF likely to lose third seat

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.