Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 February 2015

Constituency profile: Newry and Armagh

For more than two decades Newry and Armagh has been a nationalist safe seat.

The area has the fourth largest (67.16%) concentration of Catholics in the province and is the biggest constituency between Belfast and the border.

During the 1990s, the UUP polled very well in both the Assembly and Westminster elections, but never enough to topple the SDLP who had the majority of the nationalist vote.

But a shift in the orange and green politics in the late Nineties led to an increase in votes for Sinn Fein and by the 2001 General Election the party surged forward, cutting the SDLP's majority drastically.

Issues concerning the electorate?

Employment and the economy. While Newry over the past few years has managed to flourish during the recession thanks to a weak pound against a stronger euro, many believe this boost in cross-border trade is not sustainable.

As for Armagh, being a predominantly rural county, job prospects are slim. It is very largely dependent on public sector jobs.

Another issue bound to be on voters’ minds is the increasing dissident threat, with a number of attacks in the area.

Where to hedge your bets?

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, who is also the Minister for Regional Development in the Executive, is odds on to retain the seat.

The SDLP is hoping to regain some of that nationalist vote in the form of Dominic Bradley.

In the unionist camp, the DUP are hoping the inclusion of MLA William Irwin will give Ulster Unionist and Conservative Force candidate Danny Kennedy a run for his money.

Also vying for the unionist vote is Protestant victims campaigner Willie Frazer, who is standing as an independent.

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