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Belfast West

By Rebecca Black

SDLP veteran Alex Attwood looks to have a real fight on his hands to retain his West Belfast bolthole with one less seat to fight for - a loss which would be a serious blow to Colum Eastwood’s party.

In a nail-biting conclusion to the contest last May, the former Environment Minister squeezed ahead of the DUP by just 89 votes, helped over the finish line by transfers from Sinn Fein.

The election machine of SF seems assured of at least three seats and should Mr Attwood hold on it will come at the expense of a fourth with incumbent MLAs Orlaithi Flynn (who was co-opted into the Assembly after former Junior Minister Jennifer McCann quit front-line politics), Fra McCann, Alex Maskey and Pat Sheehan all returning.

After their barnstorming victory last May People Before Profits Gerry Carroll is a sure thing to be returned but it seems too big an ask for running mate Michael Collins to join him.

Frank McCoubrey for the DUP had a respectable 10.4 per cent share of first preferences last May but along with Ulster Unionist veteran Fred Rodgers appears to be short of winning a seat. Unionist voters in this constituency tend to stay at home or not vote tactically.

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