Constituency profile: North Belfast
Freed up by their withdrawal from the contest in the southside of the city, Sinn Fein activists are said to be bombarding the drives and doorbells to close Gerry Kelly’s gap on the DUP’s Nigel Dodds.
The DUP deputy leader was comfortably ahead by 5,000 votes in the last Westminster battle but by the Assembly confrontation two years later, albeit on a different system, there were only 1,500 votes between them.
Their efforts are encouraged by boundary changes, including Cloughfern from East Antrim and Glengormley from South Antrim, which marginally increases the Catholic population and decreases the Protestant. However, it would take major crumbling of the DUP vote to take Kelly over the line.
Is it just a two-horse race?
It would seem so, at least this time. But senior Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain and veteran SDLP figure Alban Maginness are both strong candidates.
The electorate can also put their X beside Alliance’s Billy Webb — a councillor in Newtownabbey for more than a decade, Independent Martin McAuley and a 19-year-old Queen’s University law student, who is the youngest ever candidate to stand for Westminster.
Will tactical voting play a part?
If a Sinn Fein gain appeared a realistic prospect, many unionists could vote tactically to keep republicans out. But so too ostensibly could nationalists rally to a viable candidate.
And the nominations are:
UCUNF — Fred Cobain
DUP — Nigel Dodds
SF — Gerry Kelly
SDLP— Alban Maginness
Independent — Martin McAuley
Alliance — William Webb