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Election briefing: From a lack of Green transfers in South Belfast and a quiet Sinn Fein, to an inevitable dog bite

Andrew Madden


NI voters head to the polls on Thursday. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

NI voters head to the polls on Thursday. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

NI voters head to the polls on Thursday. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Co-operation - or the lack of it - is nothing new in elections, with parties occasionally teaming up to stop a rival from securing a seat, or ensuring the election of another candidate.

No teamwork this time

In the run-up to the Westminster election in 2019, there was a great deal of co-operation between the Green Party and the SDLP in South Belfast.

Branded a "Brexit election", NI Green Party leader Clare Bailey stood aside to back the SDLP's Claire Hanna. Ms Bailey said she was "taking the action needed to reject Brexit" by making the choice not to run. Sinn Fein also chose not to run in the constituency.

Ms Hanna ended up romping home with 27,079 votes to 11,678 for the DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly. As we edge closer to Thursday's Assembly election, however, it appears no such co-operation is forthcoming, at least when it comes to some voters.

The latest poll by the Institute of Irish Studies-University of Liverpool and the Irish News revealed some interesting results when it comes to transfers. After all, this is an STV election, not first-past-the-post, and transfers will be vital for many parties to secure seats.

While 14.6% of SDLP voters said they would give their second preference vote to the Greens, 0% of Green voters said they would give their second preference to the SDLP. This is compared to 5% of Green voters who said they would transfer to the DUP.

This was not lost on the SDLP Belfast councillor Carl Whyte, who tweeted that he found the lack of potential Green transfers for Colum Eastwood's party "astonishing", given their history.

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All quiet on the Sinn Fein front

Sinn Fein was due to be questioned this morning on the BBC's Nolan Show on its manifesto, after all the other main parties set out their stall over the last few weeks. Apparently, however, Sinn Fein's press office did not get back to the Nolan Show to confirm its attendance.

Instead, presenter Stephen Nolan tried to ring several Sinn Fein candidates to ask them about the manifesto. He got through to a few, with John O'Dowd criticising the "cold call" and referring Mr Nolan to the party's press office. Gerry Kelly also brushed off the request and told Mr Nolan to contact the press office.

It seems the party's alleged "boycott" of the Nolan Show over its coverage of the Bobby Storey funeral is still firmly in place, regardless of the optics of giving the show the cold shoulder with just two days to go until Northern Ireland voters cast their ballot.

From bad to worse for the IRSP

It looks like the IRSP can't catch a break this election season. First, we had the party complaining about members being subject to stop-and-search procedures by the PSNI while out canvassing, then there was a dispute with a priest in west Belfast, followed by the police raids of some members' homes. Now the IRSP has announced it has had its party bank account closed.

The IRSP branded the move one "that will have serious consequences in our ability to fairly engage in the democratic process".

"The IRSP are a registered political party, we extensively exist within working-class communities across Ireland and we have a right to engage in the democratic process without fear of attack by the state in whatever form that takes," it added.

I guess we may have to wait for that IRSP electoral breakthrough.

An inevitable bite

It was going to happen eventually. As all election candidates and canvassers know, beware of unfriendly dogs when approaching the doors. It seems the first candidate to learn this valuable lesson is Alliance's Stewart Dickson, who has posted a picture of his election war wounds (a minor bite on his leg), inflicted by one of our furry friends. Must have been a DUP voter. At least the postal workers might be getting a break.

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