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Running for Stormont? It’s 50-50 you’ll get in

By Noel McAdam

Candidates for the next Northern Ireland Assembly have an almost two-in-one chance of being elected.

Overall, a total of 218 candidates are chasing the 108 seats, across 18 constituencies — each of them returning six MLAs.

But the number of candidates slugging it out varies quite widely, from 17 in east Belfast — which will have the most names on the Assembly ballot paper — to just 10 in South Antrim

And it is a smaller field; overall there are fewer candidates than in the last Assembly poll in 2007 —down by nearly 40.

With nominations closed — and the full list of candidates published yesterday by the Electoral Office — the race for Stormont and the 26 local councils is expected to step up a gear next week.

The DUP, UUP and Traditional Unionist Voice launch their election manifestos in coming days.

But the total of 218 candidates will mean that close to half of those standing will end up going to Stormont. With 44 standard-bearers, the DUP has the largest number of candidates, followed closely by Sinn Fein which is running 40.

Ulster Unionists have 29 candidates, but surprisingly are not standing in Foyle, where the party appears to have had difficulty in securing a candidate.

The SDLP is fielding 28 candidates and Alliance is standing 22 candidates, its largest-ever entry in an Assembly election.

The Green Party is standing in six constituencies, while an organisation the People Before Profit Alliance and the Workers’ Party are standing in four with the Socialist Party fighting in three.

A number of parties are in the race for the first time in the Assembly poll.

Of these, Traditional Unionist Voice has the largest field of candidates with 12 representatives followed by UKIP with six and the British National Party which has three.

There are also 15 independents.

Professor Rick Wilford from the School of Politics at Queen’s University said Northern Ireland is “massively over-governed”.

“There are 60 representatives in Wales and 129 members of the Scottish parliament but that’s for a much larger population,” he said.

“We are the most over-represented part of the United Kingdom. Hopefully we will see a significant degree of institutional reform during the next political term.

“Reform will be forced on the Assembly because of the boundary changes.

“I think there is a case for bringing the number MLAs down to five per constituency and that would bring the total number down to about 80.

“But with that, you also have to reconsider the Executive by reducing the number of government departments.”

Last year DUP leader Peter Robinson said he believed Stormont should be streamlined, with the number of MLAs slashed from 108 to 75 and the number of government departments reduced from 12 to eight in a bid to cut costs:

“The way that I have suggested reduces the cost of government. It allows money to go to front-line services where it is really needed and ensures that we keep as many people in employment as possible,” the First Minister said.

Factfile

Northern Ireland |is represented by:

  • 108 MLAs
  • 582 councillors
  • 18 MPs
  • 3 MEPs

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