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Belfast South

By Noel McAdam

Following a transformation at last year’s Assembly election with the loss of an SDLP MLA as well as the sole UUP representative, South Belfast may prove one of the least surprising constituencies this time.

Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir convincingly topped the poll for Sinn Fein last year with a strong enough vote to make the argument for Sinn Fein to run two candidates here.

However with the cut from six to five MLAs, the party is unlikely to risk it, particularly with the entry to the race of People Before Profit candidate Pádraigín Mervin, a party that has caused Sinn Fein electoral headaches in their West Belfast stronghold.

The reduction in seats is also likely to have disappointed SDLP ambitions of regaining their second seat in South Belfast where their former leader Alasdair McDonnell holds the Westminster seat. The high profile Claire Hanna is likely to be returned with ease, but her running mate Naomh Gallagher will find it challenging to win back the seat lost by Fearghal McKinney.

But the party likely to be most nervous in this constituency is the DUP after their record haul of two MLA seats last year with newcomer Emma Little-Pengelly and former Belfast Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford. One of the pair seems most likely of the sitting six to lose out unless Ulster Unionists vote tactically to ensure the constituency retains two unionists.

The Alliance Party’s Paula Bradshaw was last across the line last year, just behind Clare Bailey of the Green Party, however both seem likely to secure enough transfers from the bigger parties to be returned again ahead of the second DUP runner.

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