West Tyrone borders Fermanagh and South Tyrone to the west, and Foyle to the east, currently dominated by SF which holds the Westminster seat and half of the available Assembly seats.
The DUP, UUP and SDLP have one seat a piece, with Thomas Buchanan, Ross Hussey and Daniel McCrossan holding these respectively.
Sinn Fein are running four candidates, the three sitting MLA’s Barry McElduff, Michaela Boyle, Declan McAleer and Grace McDermott.
Thomas Buchanan will run again for the DUP with Allan Bresland as a sweeper securing that seat, though there was whispers in the constituency that Buchanan would retire. Ross Hussey, the very popular UUP MLA is running again and sure to be returned if he builds on his just over 10% yield in 2011.
The SDLP are running former staffer of Joe Byrne, Daniel McCrossan. They’ve faced numerous setbacks in this area – first a row over Council candidates, returning only one Strabane-based Councillor, then there was a row over McCrossan’s selection to replace Byrne, having not run in any election apart from the 2015 Westminster poll garnering 6,444 votes, 300 ahead of Hussey.
CISTA are running Barry Brown, the NI Conservatives are running Roger Lomas, Alliance’s Stephen Donnelly and the Independent Corey French will join them.
In 2011 SF had 3.5 quotas, and in 2015 Pat Doherty lost 4.9% of his vote on his 2010 totals, with the SDLP and UUP adding marginally to their 2010 totals.
The DUP and UUP have a seat each in the bank. The UUP may want to run a second here to carry Hussey home but he should be safe.
CISTA, Alliance, NI Conservatives and the Independent candidate will not come within any distance of a seat here.
The big question here will be, can the SDLP hold against SF given the internal meltdown and terrible performance from non-Derry based candidates in the 2014 local government election, returning Patsy Kelly who is known to oppose McCrossan.
Cllr Kelly has already had the party whip withdrawn once over his opposition to McCrossan, and now a second time, for suggesting that the party would run a second candidate in the constituency for the Assembly.
Party apparatchiks moved quickly to undermine this story, but the saga has reached the point of being a joke now – that a modern political party would allow such abject indiscipline means either the rifts between the two camps is long past repair, or the one representative who actually has his own mandate is playing a blinder – either way, the vote will suffer.
If the internal rumblings hit the SDLP campaign, or indeed voter confidence, the seat will go – and go to Sinn Fein whose fourth candidate was less than 350 behind Byrne in 2011.
Here’s how we see it:
SF x 4
DUP x 1
UUP x 1
SDLP need to get their act together here. A loss here would mean no Assembly members anywhere west of Derry.