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Newry & Armagh

By Allan Preston

Newry and Armagh has become a stronghold for Sinn Fein in recent elections, with the party returning three out of six seats to Stormont.

In the 2016 election, the SDLP, DUP and UUP each returned one candidate.

With five instead of six seats on offer on March 2, however, a tight race is expected between the SDLP and Sinn Fein for the third nationalist seat.

Changing quotas mean the minimum share of the vote needed to get elected rises from 14.3% to 16.7%.

Sinn Fein have 2.5 quotas to defend, the three seats currently held by Conor Murphy, Cathal Boylan and Megan Fearon.

The SDLP’s Justin McNulty — who is also well known for winning an all-Ireland GAA medal for Armagh in 2002 — has slightly more than a quota to himself at 1.1.

The DUP’s William Irwin has one quota, while the UUP’s Danny Kennedy has 0.8 quotas.

With such a slim share of the vote to count on, Mr Kennedy utterly rejected his party leader Mike Nesbitt’s suggestion that UUP voters transfer their second preference votes to the SDLP.

While much of the election will focus on the RHI scandal and rows over the Irish Language Act, Brexit remains the top concern for many voters in Newry and Armagh’s border areas.

Protestors against Brexit have voiced their concerns by staging mock customs checkpoints and erecting signs with slogans like ‘WARNING! If there is a hard border this road may be closed from March 2019.’

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