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Constituency profile: West Tyrone

WHAT’S THE STORY?

This is a predominantly nationalist seat which returned three Sinn Fein MLAs, two DUP members and hospital campaigner Kieran Deeny in 2007. The SDLP had just over a quota then but ran three candidates who split the vote so evenly between them that none of them got elected.

This is a seat the party needs to claw back but it may not be that easy. The DUP, on the other hand, managed its vote superbly, getting two candidates elected with less than one-and-a-half quotas. It will be trying hard to retain this edge in a province-wide battle to stop Sinn Fein overtaking it.

MAIN RUNNERS

On paper the SDLP’s Joe Byrne looks set to take his party’s seat back but nothing is guaranteed. He hasn’t been an election winner in either the council or Westminster, where he polled just short of an Assembly quota.

This time the SDLP vote will be chipped away by two former SDLP members who are running as independents, Paddy McGowan and Eugene McMenamin. The question is by how much? Most people think Dr Deeny cost the SDLP votes last time. He isn’t running, but Alliance, which backed him, is fielding Eric Bullick and this is one of its target seats, so it remains to be seen how many Deeny votes finally go Mr Byrne’s way. On the unionist side Ross Hussey of the UUP is hoping to take away one of the DUP seats, and again his Westminster performance last year suggests he will have just under a quota. Sinn Fein is fielding MP Pat Doherty along with three other candidates including sitting MLA Barry McElduff. If they all get elected, and that is just about possible, then it is curtains for the SDLP in this constituency.

VERDICT

Three Sinn Fein seats and one DUP are more or less guaranteed, but after that it becomes more difficult to call. With so many candidates likely to be just under quota there could be a long wait for transfers, and maybe recounts, before the last two seats are decided. At the end of the day if Joe Byrne of the SDLP and Ross Hussey of the UUP hang in long enough they would be very unlucky not to end up with seats. If fortune smiles on them just a little bit, then that should make the final line-up three SF, one DUP, one UUP and one SDLP. However, the last two will need every transfer and a lot can go wrong under the single transfer vote system.

OUTGOING ASSEMBLY MEMBERS (asterisk denotes they are running again)

*Barry McElduff (SF) 6971 (16.8%)

*Pat Doherty MP (SF) 6709 (16.2%)

Claire McGill (SF) 4757 (11.5%)

*Thomas Buchanan (DUP) 4625 (11.2%)

*Allan Bresland (DUP) 4244 (10.2%)

Kieran Deeny (Independent) 3776 (9.1%)

2010 Share of the vote compared to 2007

Sinn Féin 48.4%, +3.9% (3 seats)

DUP 19.8%, 2.2% (2 seats)

UCUNF/UUP 14.2%, +5.3%

SDLP 14.0% -0.5%

Alliance 2.3%, (didn’t run, |supported Deeny)

Independent 1.4% (didn’t run)

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