Belfast Telegraph

Where will the votes fall at the next election?

Unionists may prove to be the biggest losers out of the recently proposed boundary changes but the DUP could still remain the largest party in the province, according to Nicholas Whyte

Northern Ireland faces the biggest change to its political geography since the 1980s. In this analysis, I look at the votes cast in 2010 and 2011, and project them onto the recently proposed boundaries to see what the results would have been if voters had voted the same way on the new seats.

Of course, future elections will be decided by future voters; but the past is some help as a guide to the future.

North Belfast takes three Shankill wards from West Belfast. This consolidates the DUP at Westminster. They and Sinn Féin should win two Assembly seats each. The last two are between the SDLP, a third DUP candidate, the UUP, and Alliance in that order. My call: three DUP, two SF, one SDLP.

The new South West Belfast includes most of the old West Belfast, and a third of the old South Belfast. Sinn Féin continue to lead here. My call of the Assembly seats: four SF, one SDLP, one DUP.

The new South East Belfast merges most of the old East Belfast (except Dundonald) with parts of the old South Belfast. On the Westminster 2010 figures, I make this seat very close between Alliance and the DUP, with Alliance ahead by a whisker. My call for the Assembly: two DUP, two Alliance, one UUP, one SDLP.

South Antrim takes the Jordanstown and Greenisland areas from East Antrim, losing Glenavy to Lagan Valley. This consolidates the DUP. For the Assembly, my call is three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance, one SF.

Lagan Valley gains two wards, Glenavy from South Antrim and Aghagallon from Upper Bann. The DUP remain strongest. My call for the Assembly: three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance, one SF.

Strangford loses the Ards Peninsula to North Down, but gains Dundonald from East Belfast and Carryduff from South Belfast. The DUP are the biggest party. My call for the Assembly: three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance, one SDLP.

The new Mid Antrim includes most of Carrickfergus, Larne and Ballymena councils, from East and North Antrim. Again the DUP are the strongest party here. For the Assembly, I call three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance and one nationalist, more likely SF.

The heavily revised North Antrim extends as far west as Coleraine. It includes Ballymoney and Moyle districts, most of Coleraine and parts of Larne and Ballymena. The DUP lead here also. For the Assembly, I call it as three DUP, one UUP, one SF and probably one other unionist, though I do not know which.

The new Glenshane seat includes Limavady and Magherafelt districts, and wards from Derry, Cookstown and Coleraine; it is drawn almost equally from the current East Londonderry and Mid Ulster seats. It presents a challenge: I put Sinn Féin consistently on just below 40% of the vote, with the total for all unionists just above 40% (but the DUP, who hold the East Londonderry Westminster seat, on only 25% or so). With a tactical squeeze on the SDLP, SF might well beat even an agreed unionist for Westminster. The Assembly is also difficult to call; unionists have two seats and nationalists three, but the last is very marginal. In the end, my call is three SF, one DUP, one UUP and one SDLP.

Foyle gains from Strabane. The SDLP remains the strongest party for Westminster elections; on the 2011 Assembly and local government votes, I have Sinn Féin snapping at their heels. But I am calling the Assembly seats as three SDLP, two SF, one DUP.

The new Mid Tyrone comprises most of Cookstown, Strabane and Omagh districts, and part of Dungannon, from the old West Tyrone and Mid Ulster constituencies, both held by Sinn Féin at Westminster; there is no reason to expect a change. At Assembly level I call the seats as three SF, one DUP, one UUP, and one SDLP.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone gains six Omagh wards. This helps Sinn Féin, whose wafer-thin victory in 2010 would be much more comfortable under these boundaries. There should be three unionist Assembly seats, one each for the UUP and DUP, with the third very difficult to predict. My call: SF three, DUP two, UUP one.

Newry and Armagh loses Tandragee to Upper Bann. There should be no consequent change to Sinn Féin's tenure of the Westminster seat, or to the Assembly result: three SF, one SDLP, one UUP, one DUP.

Upper Bann gains Tandragee from Newry and Armagh, but loses Aghagallon to Lagan Valley and Loughbrickland to South Down. The DUP remain in front for Westminster, and the Assembly seats remain two DUP, two UUP, one SDLP, one SF.

South Down gains Loughbrickland from Upper Bann. The SDLP remain comfortably ahead of their rivals for Westminster, and the Assembly seats should be unchanged at three SDLP, two SF, one UUP, one DUP.

North Down gains the Ards Peninsula from Strangford. Lady Sylvia Hermon remains dominant at Westminster; without her in the equation, the DUP are much the biggest party. There should be no change of party strengths at Assembly level - three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance, one Green.

So, I give the DUP seven Westminster seats (down one), SF five, the SDLP two (down one), Lady Hermon one and Alliance one (just).

At Assembly level, while there is a huge potential margin of error, I put the DUP on about 33 seats (down five), SF on 27 (down two), the UUP on 14 (down two), SDLP 13 (down one), Alliance seven (down one) and Greens and one of the two other unionists keeping their single seats. But in the end, the voters will decide.


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