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East Londonderry: Rising voter apathy biggest danger to DUP's Campbell holding his seat

By Donna Deeney

Published 27/04/2015

Gregory Campbell
Gregory Campbell

The East Londonderry constituency could provide one of the most predictable results of the 2015 Westminster elections, with pundits agreeing the DUP's Gregory Campbell will be returned as MP.

The electoral area has undergone a few changes over the years - it was largely created from the old Londonderry constituency which went in 1983, and the loss of Magherafelt to Mid Ulster in 1995.

The most recent revision came in 2010 when Banagher and Claudy were included from Foyle.

Gregory Campbell first romped to victory here in 2001 when he secured 12,813 votes - 32.1% - and unseated William Ross of the UUP who had held it since the constituency was formed in 1983.

While this was the last time Ross stood for election under the UUP banner - he had been MP since 1973 - no other unionist has since come close to taking the seat from the DUP. Ross stepped back into the political arena in 2010, this time as a TUV candidate, but polled just 2,572 votes - a far cry from 1997 when he topped the poll with over 29,000 votes. In 2010, the once strong UUP saw Lesley McCauley beaten into third by Sinn Fein's Cathal O hOisin.

While it looks almost certain Mr Campbell will be elected again this time around, it is worth noting that turnout has steadily declined since the heady days of 1983 when more than 76% came out.

In 2010 the turnout for Westminster was just over 55%, and the following year's Assembly election saw just 54.1% vote.

For nearly 30 years, the fight for this constituency was a mirror image of neighbouring Foyle - a two-horse race between candidates on the same side of the religious divide. Sinn Fein's performance is worth watching this time as the relatively unknown Caoimhe Archibald replaces the more high-profile O hOisin.

The SDLP is fielding a better-known candidate in Gerry Mullan, a former Mayor of Limavady. He will be recognisable to voters in the Coleraine area after his success in 2014 for the Causeway Coast and Glens Council.

Alliance's Yvonne Boyle will be hoping to the build on the 1,922 votes secured by Barney Fitzpatrick in 2010. Despite coming last, Alliance was the only party to see an increase in the percentage of its vote, rising by 3.1%.

The Northern Ireland Conservatives are fielding Liz St Clair-Legge, and this is one of four constituencies where a candidate for the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol party is standing, represented here by Neil Paine.

The issues of unemployment and health are likely to dominate.

Belfast Telegraph

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