NATIONALIST VOTING: WE REVEAL OUR SURVEY RESULTS

Before we start, we should be clear, this is not any kind of scientific survey and thousands of people have not responded.  We wanted to get an insight from Nationalist voters as to why, so the figures tell us, they are not voting.

We asked five anonymous questions:

  1. Did you vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May?

  2. If yes, who did you give your number one preference to?

  3. If no, why not?

  4. What issues are Nationalist parties/National candidates not fulfilling, in your opinion?

  5. What could be done to persuade you to vote in the next Local Government/Assembly elections?

We got thirty responses – bearing in mind we shared this over our twitter and facebook profiles a few days after the election, this is not bad!  We advertised this specifically for Nationalists.

Here are our results

Did you vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May?

survey1

Oddly, the vast majority of our respondents did vote at the May 2016 Assembly elections.

If yes, who did you give your number one preference to?

survey2

Unsurprisingly, our respondents voted in the majority for Sinn Fein candidates, though then the results, from a small sample group as they are, are interesting.  Second to SF came the Green Party with 21.74%, followed in third by the SDLP on 17.39% and on exactly the same percentage, People Before Profit (why our graphic rounded this to 18% for SDLP we’ll never know).  Independent candidates were given first preference by 13.04% of our respondents, followed by Alliance on 4.35% – the Worker’s Party received no first preference votes from our respondents.

If no, why not?

The responses to question three were widely varying, with some food for thought for the future of Nationalist politics.

Some written answered referred to more than one issue, but it is clear that there is a range of issues on the Nationalist voters bases mind that are not being addressed satisfactorily.

Abortion, and the drive to make this more accessible by some quarters in the Nationalist political sphere was a major issue amongst our respondents.

The lack of progress with jobs or the economy also topped the list of reasons why some of our respondents wouldn’t vote.

Strangely, some other issues which might be embarrassing for some Nationalist political parties raised their head.  One respondent referred to the lack of ‘Unionist reciprocation’ when it came to initiatives in the peace process.  Another said they don’t ‘represent any of my interests’.

The pursual of integrated education was another issue why one of our respondents didn’t vote this May.  This was alongsided frustration with SF in particular in terms of addressing the problems in special education provision for young people.

The progression of a United Ireland came up once.

What issues are Nationalist parties/National candidates not fulfilling, in your opinion?

Question four is more generalised, and all but one of our respondents answered it, i.e those who did and did not vote.

survey3

Unsurprisingly, our respondents felt that the issue of the economy and jobs were not being addressed – 72.41% of them.

Infrastructure was next, with 58.62% of respondents indicating Nationalist politicians aren’t doing enough in terms of infrastructure.

The progression of a United Ireland came next, with 37.93% saying Nationalist politicians aren’t doing enough on this.

Oddly, in what is seen by many in the commentariat to be a largely Unionist issue, Nationalists feel their politicians aren’t addressing victims either – 20.69% of our respondents.  This may be some food for thought for some parties in particular if this was to be emulated in a larger survey.

We gave respondents the option to select one of those issues, and to input their own, and they sure did.

One respondent was very clear they felt that Nationalist politicians are addressing issues.

Two respondents felt abortion was not being addressed – one felt that the issue was being addressed too much, the other that it was not being addressed enough.

The other issues we expected to come up, did – Irish Language, Marching, Policing – but others did crop up.  Some respondents felt the disabled weren’t being adequately served, and another felt that politicians are ‘not speaking for the working person- more concerned about helping those on benefits.’

What could be done to persuade you to vote in the next Local Government/Assembly elections?

Of course this is the ‘big one’ that everyone wants to know.

The respondents are a progressive bunch, the majority of answers referred to ‘less tribalism’, ‘more policies, less personalities’, ‘end to the two-party system’.

One said if ‘Republican perfomance’ in councils, Leinster House and Stormont do not improve’, they will not vote at the next election.

The issue of the A5 came up a number of times, and Derry was specifically referred to in one response, in terms of delivery.

‘Stop obsessing about the border’ one respondent declared.

‘Reciprocation from Unionism’ was one which shocked us, but a fair point.

Two answers which we did not expect to see came up, and might give some in politics food for thought.

One respondent said that ‘More prominent Catholics in Unionism’ would make them, as a Nationalist, vote in the next election. Another referred to the need to ‘stop placating Unionism’.  Such is the broad nature of the opinions of some in the Nationalist community!

 

NATIONALISTS! Why aren’t you voting?

Much has been made since the Assembly elections of the continually dropping Nationalist voter turnout.  We have put together a very short, anonymous survey so Nationalists can tell us why they simply aren’t voting, or are spoiling their votes.

Please take few minutes to have a look and complete it, democracy is there for us all to engage in!

Click here for the survey.

Thanks!

NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION ’16: NEWRY AND ARMAGH PREDICTION

The Newry and Armagh constituency is a mixed bag, it includes Nationalist strongholds such as Newry, as well as more Unionist areas like Tandragee, Markethill, Richhill and Loughgall.  It is the second most populated constituency after Upper Bann.

In 2011, SF won three of the six seats, SDLP, UUP and DUP have one each.  Conor Murphy topped the poll, but stood down when the party ended double jobbing, focussing on Westminster.  Megan Fearon replaced him.  Mickey Brady and Cathal Boylan were the other two originally elected, Mickey then taking the Westminster seat and Conor Murphy returning to Parliament Buildings.

The long standing SDLP representative Dominic Bradley was returned in 2011, but is not contesting this election.  William Irwin took a seat for the DUP and the former DRD Minister Danny Kennedy put in a strong performance for the UUP, coming second with over 18% of first preferences.

A major controversy over the naming of a playpark in the constituency after Raymond McCreesh has galvanised Unionism in the area, and the 2015 Westminster election exposed what could be a resurgent UUP in this constituency.  Danny Kennedy upped his vote by nearly 14%, though the DUP did not run a candidate here – regardless, their 2010 vote was abysmal.

The withdrawal of the UUP from the Executive might play to voters here, and coupled with the 2014 local government outcome, where the UUP are almost 100% ahead in their percentage of the vote, the DUP could come under real pressure here.

Within Nationalism, this could be one of the constituencies to watch.  With Dominic Bradley having retired, South Down MLA Karen McKevitt has opted to move to this constituency, with a running mate in Justin McNulty who ran for the party in 2015, increasing the party vote by a meagre 0.3%.  McKevitt is currently the SDLP Whip in the Assembly, and is a Newry native, which will work in her favour.

The second candidate for the SDLP outpolled Mickey Brady in 2011 by several hundred votes, so there is a chance to build here.  McNulty is well known sportsman and held the SDLP core vote together for Westminster as a first time candidate.

Sinn Fein are running Megan Fearon, one of the youngest MLA’s in the Assembly, Cathal Boylan and Conor Murphy.  Murphy is safe here, his personal vote will carry him and he has been tipped to return to the Executive table for the party after May.

This will be Fearon’s first election, though the Drumintee native has had a relatively high profile inside and outside the constituency.  Cathal Boylan amassed 14.2% in 2011, and is popular in the constituency, though illness has caused him to strip back his duties in recent times, having heart surgery in 2015.

It will be difficult to call between Fearon and Boylan should the third SF seat come under pressure from the SDLP.

An interesting addition to the candidates in this election is Paul Berry, a former DUP MLA who fell foul of the party following revelations about his private life.  How the DUP vote will go here will be interesting.

A full list of the candidates for this constituency is as follows:

Conor Murphy (SF)

Cathal Boylan (SF)

Megan Fearon (SF)

Justin McNulty (SDLP)

Danny Kennedy (UUP)

Karen McKevitt (SDLP)

Sam Nicholson (UUP)

Paul Berry (IND)

Emmet Crossan (CiSTA)

William Irwin (DUP)

Alan Love (UKIP)

Martin McAllister (Ind)

Michael Watters (GP)

Craig Weir (AL)

 

Given the difficulty of calling this one, we’ve had a look at the 2014 local government figures.  In 2011, SF elected 14 members to the then-Newry and Mourne District Council.  Given the re-organisation of councils in the region, the constituency now sits within both the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

In the Armagh ward of the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council, SF returned 2, SDLP returned 2, with the UUP and DUP on one each.

Overall on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, the Nationalists returned 14 seats each in 2014.

With a heaped teaspon full of salt, here’s how we call it.

SF 2 (Murphy and ?) (We can’t call it between popular Fearon, and longstanding Boylan)

 

SDLP 2 (IF McNulty polls well and the vote management is tight)

 

UUP 1 (Kennedy) (Kennedy is safe here, but it is hard to see him pulling Nicholson over the line)


DUP 1 (William Irwin) (Whilst there may well have been a shift here in the Unionist mindset, the last real figures we have are from 2011, where Irwin was very close to a quota on his own, which can’t be discounted)

 

 

 

 

NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION ’16: WEST BELFAST PREDICTION

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.

PREDICTION

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)

 

 

 

NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION ’16: SOUTH BELFAST PREDICTION

The South Belfast constituency is one to watch this May – it has gone through massive changes to its sitting MLA’s since 2011 and that could have an impact on the outcome this time around.

In 2011, the candidates elected were as follows:

  • Anna Lo – Alliance (retiring)
  • Alex Maskey – SF (replaced by Máirtín Ó Muilleoir within the term)
  • Jimmy Spratt – DUP (replaced by Emma Little-Pengelly within the term)
  • Conall McDevitt – SDLP (replaced by Fearghal McKinney after resigining)
  • Alasdair McDonnell – SDLP (stepped down, replaced by Claire Hanna)
  • Michael McGimpsey – UUP (retiring)

So, none of the originally elected representatives will be seeking to hold their seats in May 2016.

Looking at the data, it would seem the SDLP is in real trouble in this constituency.  Alasdair McDonnell held the seat for the Party at Westminster, but suffered a cataclysmic drop of 16.5% in his vote.

At the 2011 Assembly election, the combined SDLP vote was actually behind that of the DUP, 24.3% as opposed to 23.9%.  The SDLP still held two seats, but this was with two very well known, relatively popular candidates.

Fearghal McKinney, the SDLP deputy leader is an untried electoral animal in the Assembly, having run for Fermanagh and South Tyrone’s Westminster seat in 2010 with an abysmal 7.6% – down by over 7% on 2005.  Will his deputy leadership help him hold on?

Claire Hanna is another untried Assembly candidate, though she was a sitting Councillor on Belfast City Council for Balmoral, coming third in the five seater ward with just under 1,500 votes.

Rodney McCune will be the UUP standard bearer in May, replacing big hitter and former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.  He ran for Westminster in the constituency, and had a disastrous turnout, down 8.2% on the previous election.  The combined UUP candidates in 2011 polled 13.5%.  There should be a relatively safe seat there for the UUP, but it is by no means set in stone.

Emma Little Pengelly, a former OFMDFM Special Adviser replaced veteran Jimmy Spratt relatively recently, and ignited a furious row with outspoken Councillor Ruth Patterson who believed she was ‘parachuted’ into the seat having never held elected office before.  Cllr Patterson resigned and will run as an Independent.  She amassed 3,800 first preferences last time, and narrowly missed out.

Alliance will miss Anna Lo, she topped the poll for the party in the constituency in 2011.  She is being replaced by one time UCUNF candidate Paula Bradshaw who joined the party in late 2013, and Duncan Morrow.  Bradshaw is a sitting Balmoral Councillor, polling just over 800 first prefs in 2014, whilst Morrow lost out in Botanic.  Running two candidates seems risky to me, but tight vote management might just get Bradshaw over the line.

The dark horse in this constituency is the Green Party’s Claire Bailey.  She ran in 2011, getting just over 800 firsts, but then at the 2015 Westminster, almost doubled the Greens’ 2010 total.

Sinn Fein is running sitting MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, in a safe seat.  Sinn Fein did’t run for Westminster in 2010, an he gained almost 14% in 2015.  Alex Maskey has moved constituency, and will be a big loss, but Ó Muilleoir is a name in himself, having been a popular Lord Mayor.

PREDICTION

A very tricky one to call for the most part.  SF will definitely hold their seat here, no doubt about that.  We can’t see the SDLP holding both seats, Hanna is from a well-known local family, her mother Carmel is a former MLA and Minister.  McKinney is the one to lose out here if they drop a seat, which will be a massive story.

Alliance have taken what we think is a strange route here with running two candidates, the votes are there to hold the seat as Lo was very popular, but this needs to be carefully managed, if it turns into a bloodbath, the seat may well be lost.

The big story here is the fight for the sole DUP seat.  Ruth Patterson is running off her own steam with flag protester Jamie Bryson as her election agent, and she has garnered a loyal electoral base over the years.  Little Pengelly is high profile on the Hill at present, but untried in electoral contests.  I can only predict here that Patterson will come out on top.

The Greens have a real chance here in my opinion, starting from a relatively buoyed and steady base from 2015.  This chance stems not only from their own electoral base, but from the relative disarray of the Unionist vote in particular created by Little Pengelly v Patterson.  The SDLP losing one of their two here, and the well known chance of it happening, may spook some of their voters, especially those who are not die-hards.  They may well go Green.

The UUP seat looks relatively safe, though there have been what looks to be some bloodletting in the South Belfast Association when Michael McGimpsey stepped down, to the shock of many.

Here’s how we call it:

SF 1

AL 1 (Bradshaw)

SDLP 1 (Hanna)

UUP 1

IND 1 (Patterson)

GP 1 (Bailey)

 

 

NI ASSEMBLY ’16: W TYRONE PREDICTION

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.

COUNT STAFF CUT COULD SPELL NIGHTMARE FOR ASSEMBLY ELECTION

The notoriously slow process of election counts in NI, culminating in the horrific 2-day wait for many candidates for the Assembly in 2011 could yet be compounded this year.

BtP have asked for details of the workforce available to the Electoral Office for the last three elections, and planned staffing numbers for this years Assembly elections to be held in May.

Only 65 counting staff will be available per constituency, with only 15 senior staff per constituency.  BtP can reveal that there will be over 700 less staff counting at the Assembly elections this year – which could prove a disaster for anxious candidates.

eoni

NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION ’16: N DOWN PREDICTION

The constituency of North Down faces some big changes in this upcoming Assembly election, particularly on the UUP ticket with the departure of longstanding MLA Leslie Cree.

He is replaced on the UUP ticket by Alan Chambers who ran as an Independent in 2011 and actually outpolled Mr Cree, accompanied by Daniel Allen and Carl McClean.

Alliance are running current DEL Minister Stephen Farry and Andrew Muir, a former Mayor of North Down.

The Green incumbent Steven Agnew is the party’s sole candidate and is joined by UKIP’s Bill Piper and Frank Shivers of the NI Conservatives.

The DUP have not confirmed their candidates but it is likely their three current MLA’s Alex Easton (who topped the poll in 2011), Peter Weir the DUP Chief Whip and Gordon Dunne will run again.

The DUP is the largest party in the new Ards and North Down Borough Council with 17 seats, shadowing the UUP’s 9, Alliance’s 7 and the Green Party’s two seats.  Its candidates polled 16,460 votes, which if repeated would safely elect three MLA’s.  In the 2011 council election for both North Down and Ards, the DUP’s tally was over 20,000.

The UUP polled over 8,000 votes in the local government election, which if replicated would secure two seats, though in the Assembly election the same year they secured only 3,000 votes and one seat, with Chambers, then an independent, narrowly missing out.

The Greens will be fighting to keep their leader in the sole seat for the party in Stormont.  Agnew is a popular MLA and has a relatively good profile.  Their Assembly and council vote is in the low 2,000’s and almost identical.  With their two councillors coming from Bangor West and Bangor Central, it will be crucial to hold the tide here particularly given both polled less than 500 votes.

PREDICTION

It is almost certain that the DUP will hold their three seats if the figures from the Council elections are replicated, though the UUP will be hot on its heels with Chambers back in the UUP fold.

The flag protests did little damage to Alliance here compared to Belfast, though Muir polled less than 1000 votes at Council level, so it is unlikely he will follow Farry into Parliament Buildings.

We predict that Steven Agnew will hold his seat, with a slightly reduced margin given the squeeze of Chambers and the possibility of a second UUP seat.

DUP X 3

UUP X 1 – Likely to be Chambers

AL X 1 – Farry

GP X 1 – Agnew

Possibility here of a second UUP seat, likely to be at the expense of the Greens if the momentum does materialise.

UKIP and NI Conservatives will not make any breakthroughs here.

 

 

NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION ’16: FOYLE PREDICTION

News recently that deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will contest the May 2016 Assembly election in the Foyle constituency has prompted a number of interesting responses. The SDLP who hold three seats in John Hume and current leader Colum Eastwood’s patch seem nonchalant, SF activists are brimming with glee and others are describing the move as a sign of SF seeking to consolidate a base in Foyle that has frequently failed to topple the SDLP’s big hitters.

Let’s take a look at the constituency.

At the 2011 Assembly election, Sinn Fein came within less than 500 votes of the SDLP which they claimed as a major victory despite holding their two seats to their rivals’ three, up 3.2% to a reduction of 1.7% for the SDLP.

Interestingly, the SDLP’s Mark Durkan reclaimed votes for the SDLP by the same percentage in the 2015 Westminster.  SF’s candidate, Gearoid O’heara dropped the party’s vote by 0.4%.

Turnout in Foyle in 2011 was 57.8%, with a quota of 5,500.

Here it would be unfair to omit the DUP and leftist candidate Eamonn McCann.  The DUP’s Gary Middleton is certain to take a seat in Foyle for Unionism.  McCann’s share of the vote jumped from 5% in 2007 to 8% in 2011 (though it should be noted Mr McCann changed parties between these.)

Now to 2016.   So far, the following candidates have declared:

  • Julia Kee, UUP
  • Gary Middleton, DUP
  • Eamonn McCann, PBPA
  • Anne McCloskey, Independent
  • Gerard Diver, SDLP
  • Mark Durkan, SDLP
  • Colum Eastwood, SDLP
  • Maeve McLaughlin, SF
  • Raymond McCartney, SF
  • Martin McGuinness, SF

Let’s look at this election rumble in context.  The effective leader of SF in NI versus the newly installed leader of the SDLP.  Both of these factors will, we predict, bring core voters out from both parties who may not have voted in the last two elections.

Transfers will be key in this constituency.  SF are well known for robust transfer discipline, this has been a staple of each of their modern election strategies.  The SDLP also has a good vote transfer strategy, with small numbers of transfers to other candidates.

McCann attracted transfers from even the DUP in 2011, with the majority of these coming from the other Independent candidates, 332 to be exact.  The UUP did not field a candidate.

There has been considerable disquiet in areas of the constituency regarding the chances of local GP, Anne McCloskey who is a first time candidate.  However, it is very difficult indeed to see where she will attract transfers from that would normally go to McCann.  It is worth stating, of course, that as an unknown entity, she may attract some support depending on her overall voter profile, which we do not yet know – one thing we do know is that, as with Westminster elections, voters do not always stick with candidates or parties across local, Assembly and Europe.

Prediction

Foyle will be a battle royale.  The SDLP will want a bump for their new leader and to hold their three seats.  SF will want to finally wrestle away a huge Nationalist constituency from the SDLP that has always eluded them.  Two precision campaigns will be run, so high are the stakes.

For those who think SF have moved McGuinness to Foyle as a rearguard action, step aside – no party would risk their leader losing a seat, especially in the year that’s in it.

Five years is a long time.  If the gap (499 votes) between SF and the SDLP has closed, and SF push as I think they will, then SF will secure three quotas.

The SDLP has a huge problem here.  Given the backyards of Durkan and Eastwood, Diver, a Waterside-based candidate, will be left with most of the Moor ward, his predecessors loyal base.  Unfortunately, no Waterside-based Nationalist candidate has been elected to the Assembly – Fleming in 2011 and 2007 as well as 1998.

Even if Diver holds all of Ramsey’s votes and adds to it, it’ll be an uphill struggle, a new MLA running alongside a leader and an Executive Minister.

Here we go, we predict, based on trends and local context, that the following will be elected:

Mark Durkan, SDLP

Colum Eastwood, SDLP

Martin McGuinness, SF

Maeve McLaughlin, SF

Raymond McCartney, SF

Gary Middleton, DUP

McCann and McCloskey will fight it out but it is likely that they will split a relatively limited voter base.  McCann will get to the third count but with limited transfers, he will not make it this time.  McCloskey as a first timer will, if luck is on her side, get to the second count but transfers will be hard to find beyond that.  Kee for the UUP’s fortunes depend on the relationship between the two parties, without DUP transfers she will hollow out at around 1,800, and with she may make it to the second or third count, but no seat.

What do you think?