Belfast Telegraph

Constituency profile: South Down

Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard could pose the biggest threat to Margaret Ritchie’s safe and secure seat in South Down.

The former SDLP leader took 42% of the vote last year, with Mr Hazzard the only candidate in any way snapping at her heels.

But the Sinn Fein man’s profile has increased substantially over the last two years — in part due to his time as Infrastructure Minister.

Ms Ritchie’s share was actually squeezed during the General Election in 2015, falling by just over 6%.

That was mainly due to the swathes of unionist competition, as she took 18,077 votes, which saw her overall vote fall by just over 2,500.

And it will be a fresh face for the DUP, trying to increase the party’s share of the unionist vote this time around.

It is setting aside party stalwart Jim Wells, in favour of first timer Diane Forsythe — despite her having no previous political experience.

Ulster Unionist Harold McKee will return to try and secure the largest unionist vote once again, just three months after losing his Assembly seat.

Mr Wells said he had stood in 17 elections in South Down in 35 years, and if he had run on June 8 it would have been his fifth campaign in just over two years. Alliance councillor Andrew McMurray will be hoping for a greater shot at a double-digit voter share for the party.

And the field of candidates has narrowed, with former Ukip man Henry Reilly and the Conservatives not standing.

CANDIDATES:

Diane Forsythe (DUP)

Chris Hazzard (Sinn Fein)

Harold McKee (UUP)

Andrew McMurray (Alliance)

Margaret Ritchie (SDLP)

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