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Constituency profile: Fermanagh and South Tyrone

WHAT’S THE STORY?

Fermanagh and South Tyrone has traditionally been a fiercely-contested constituency with unionist and nationalist candidates splitting the vote.

After a dramatic third recount at last year’s Westminster election, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew held on to her seat by just four votes, the narrowest majority in the UK.

With this slender victory Gildernew fended off unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor, who was backed by the DUP and the UUP although standing as an independent.

In recent years Gildernew — the outgoing Agriculture Minister — has edged in front at the polls for Westminster by the narrowest of margins in 2001 and again in 2005.

Yet at the last Assembly elections in 2007 it was the DUP’s Arlene Foster who topped the poll, gaining more than 100 votes over the Sinn Fein MP. This time the question is whether outgoing Enterprise Minister Foster, who had a brief spell as acting First Minister in January last year, can hold on to her lead.

Meanwhile, UUP leader Tom Elliott, who came in a narrow third in the previous election, will be looking to bolster his position as party chief by building on a substantial share gained in previous Assembly elections.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

There is little doubt Gildernew will retain a large share of the vote.

The popular MP has enjoyed a successful spell in the Executive as the Agriculture Minister and is expected to shrug aside any disruptions to her election campaign caused by party defections in the constituency.

It is more than likely, however, that the SDLP’s Tommy Gallagher will challenge Sinn Fein’s claim over any “loaned votes” gained at

the last election, and will be looking to chip away at Gildernew's share of the nationalist vote.

VERDICT

Ms Gildernew is likely to top the poll ahead of Foster, although the DUP candidate will run a strong campaign to retain her position, while Elliott and Gallagher are likely to hold on to their seats for the UUP and SDLP.

Despite a modest showing in 2007, the UUP is putting forward young Kenny Donaldson once again and could scrape through to gain a second UUP seat.

Donaldson and Elliott will be targeting Lord Morrow’s position in the unionist camp, while Sinn Fein will only have the SDLP’s allagher to challenge on the nationalist side as Sean Lynch and Phil Flanagan tussle for a second and third seat.

Elsewhere, independent Pat Cox and the Alliance candidate Hannah Su, who is of Vietnamese origin, will be out to make their names in a new territory.

OUTGOING MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY

(Asterix denotes they are running again)

*Arlene Foster 7138 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 15.4%

*Michelle Gildernew 7026 Sinn Féin (SF) 15.1%

*Tom Elliott 6,603 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) 14.2%

Gerry McHugh 5103 SF 11.0%

*Maurice (Lord) Morrow 4700 DUP 10.1%

*Tommy Gallagher 4440 Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) 10.1%

2010 SHARE OF THE VOTE COMPARED TO 2007

Sinn Fein 45.5% (36.2%)

Independent (Unionist Unity Candidate) 45.5% (DUP 25.5%) (UUP 19.7%)

SDLP 7.6% (14.0%)

Alliance 0.9% (1.1%)

Independent and other 0.4% (3.5%)

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