What’s the Story?
In 2007 the DUP had four candidates elected. Michelle McIlveen, the last to get in, beat the SDLP’s Joe Boyle by just 31 votes. Strangford was most affected by boundary changes — it lost seven wards from Castlereagh and gained three from South Down. The net effect was to reduce the electorate by about 3,000 unionists, 200 nationalists and 300 Alliance, wrote statistician Nicholas White on the Stratagem website. The DUP is also affected by Iris Robinson’s retirement and Jim Shannon going to Westminster.
Everyone fancies their chances of taking a seat from the DUP. The effect of ‘Irisgate’ is thought to have worn off. The DUP’s front-runners, Jonathan Bell and Simon Hamilton, are seen as rising stars. After that it gets dodgy for Michelle McIlveen and Billy Walker. The UUP’s Mike Nesbitt got 9,050 votes in the 2010 Westminster poll. The party sees the ex-TV anchorman as a key asset and is running him alongside David McNarry. Kieran McCarthy of Alliance is running again. The SDLP’s Joe Boyle will be hoping the boundary changes help him over the line. The TUV’s Terry Williams will hope to up his vote from 1,814 in 2010.
Nationalists should make a gain from the DUP. The DUP’s Bell and Hamilton look safe and McIlveen only slightly less so. McCarthy of Alliance should make it on transfers. The UUP is running two big-name candidates in order to snap up another couple. Micky Coogan of Sinn Fein could be kingmaker; Boyle needs him eliminated in time to deliver transfers.
OUTGOING ASSEMBLY MEMBERS (asterisk denotes they are running again)
Iris Robinson MP (DUP) 5917 (16.4%)
Jim Shannon (DUP) 4788 (13.3%)
*Kieran McCarthy (Alliance) 4085 (11.3%)
*Simon Hamilton (DUP) 3889 (10.8%)
*David McNarry (UUP) 3709 (10.3%)
*Michelle McIlveen (DUP) 3468 (9.6%)
2010 Share of the vote compared to 2007
DUP 45.9%, (-4.2%)
UCUNF/UUP 27.8% (+9.7%)
Alliance 8.7%, (-2.6%)
SDLP 6.7%, (-1.8%)
TUV 5.6% (didn’t stand)
Sinn Fein 3.6% (+0.6%)
Green 1.7% (-0.7%)
(Others got 8.4% in 2007)