West Belfast is often seen as one of those constituencies that simply ‘belongs’ to a particular party, such is their strength.  Of course by that in this constituency we mean Sinn Fein, who have held the Westminster seat and at least four out of six Assembly seats for as long as many can remember.

However, this constituency has undergone some changes recently candidate-wise.  Gerry Adams is no longer the party standard bearer, and Alex Maskey has moved from South Belfast to West this time around.  Rosie McCorley and Pat Sheehan are running as candidates for the first time for the party also.

SF candidates for the constituency are:

Fra McCann (sitting)

Rosie McCorley (sitting)

Alex Maskey (sitting)

Pat Sheehan (sitting)

Jennifer McCann (sitting)

Sheehan polled the lowest number of first preferences in 2011 at 3,723 and overall the party’s vote fell by a not insignificant 3.8%.  In a major upset, the party’s vote fell by a staggering 16.8% – its worst Westminster vote since 1996.

The SDLP stalwart Alex Attwood has been the party’s sole MLA here since 1998, and has had a relatively steady vote in Assembly elections.  He polled 10.9% in 2011, a percentage behind SF’s Sue Ramsey and ahead of Pat Sheehan.

Again, there is a however – in the 2015 Westminster election, his vote dropped 6.5% and he was beaten into third place for the first time by People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll.

Carroll polled poorly in 2011, even beaten by the DUP candidate, but there has been a real surge in his support locally which saw him elected to Belfast City Council with first preferences of 1,691 for the Black Mountain DEA – outpolling 3 Sinn Fein candidates and the sole SDLP candidate.

In 2015, he shocked many by polling an impressive 19.8% or 6,798 in the Westminster election, coming second – even with a very low turnout.

The SDLP, SF and PBP are the only show in town for this constituency.  Whilst the DUP gained 7.5% in 2011, the UUP and Alliance both polled below 5%.  Diane Dodds won a seat in 2003 but held it only for one term.

All of the candidates standing are listed below:

Fra McCann (sitting)

Rosie McCorley (sitting)

Alex Maskey (sitting)

Pat Sheehan (sitting)

Jennifer McCann (sitting)

Alex Attwood (sitting)

Conor Murphy (WP)

Gerry Carroll (PBP)

Frank McCoubrey (DUP)

Jemima Higgins (AP)

Ellen Murray (GP)

Gareth Martin (UUP)

It is likely others will be added to the ballot, such as a Socialist Party candidate.


Sinn Fein will still hold sway in the constituency following May 2016.  The question is, which of their sitting MLA’s will lose out.  This is guaranteed, as the PBP vote and the SDLP votes are largely solid.

Looking at the areas each of the candidates come from, it would seem to me that Jennifer McCann with her position as Junior Minister will sustain her, and Alex Maskey, brother of the sitting MP and Chair of the Social Development Committee will be safe, given his high profile in recent years.

Rose McCorley was chosen to replace Paul Maskey in 2012 when he was elected to Westminster and is untried in electoral contests.  She has had time to bed down, and is well known in the party, but this does not necessarily equate to electoral support.  Fra McCann is well placed in the Lower Falls area which is strong for the party, and he should be safe.

For us, Pat Sheehan is at risk here.  There is a number of factors – he was the lowest polling SF candidate in 2011, and now seems to have been given large sections of the Black Mountain area in the vote management strategy.  This brings him into direct contest with Carroll who represents the area in Council.

Gerry Carroll is, frankly, a cert to take a seat here, and may even top the poll if his vote holds up.  Alex Attwood looks under pressure following the 2015 Westminster result, but there is a core SDLP vote here that will carry him over the line, with no running mate supporting him this time.

We call it:

SF 4 (Maskey, McCorley, McCann and McCann)

SDLP 1 (Attwood)

PBP 1 (Gerry Carroll)






  1. Reblogged this on Áine Carson and commented:
    The analysis is both in-depth and interesting. West Belfast certainly has displayed a shift in voting patterns the past few years. The prediction of Pat Sheehan losing his seat could be spot on given that he’s a rich landlord standing in Upper Springfield – where people experience the highest social deprivation levels in Europe. I really don’t know what he has in common with those that lead their daily lives here. I think this election will probably be one of the most exciting for West Belfast in particular. Thanks for the heads up on this BTP.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Various unionist transfers will be crucial. Sheahan been given two additional wards and I think the vote management will not be so disciplined as before. It may not make any differnce…whoever loses out and recycled to earn the average industrial wage elsewhere in the SF machine will still lose the “MLA” tag…and I dont think Sheahan wants that.
    All things being equal, Id say Fra McCann would be more vulnerable. But is Jennifers position as a Minister an asset or a liability?


    1. It’s an interesting mix – but I do think Fra is safer, and McCann has an active presence in Glencolin and Poleglass as well, high turnouts will see her through I’m sure. Pat has a lot less of a presence in key area, and we do think Gerry Carroll’s voter base in Black Mountain will do Sheehan damage.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.