Let me put a scenario to you.
A political party gets less than 13% of the votes in the Westminster Election. Next May, it is defending one seat in a six seat constituency. And it had a Selection Conference two months ago.
How many candidates should the Party field to retain its seat? Surely the obvious answer is….one….the sitting member.
But in North Antrim, Sinn Féin is running two candidates, sitting MLA Dáithí McKay and Cara McShane. All with the announced intention of giving voters a chance to elect a second Sinn Féin member. It is …to say the least…optimistic.
In 2011, due largely to boundary changes, the second nationalist seat (SDLP) was lost. Six months ago the SDLP vote was around 7% but likely to improve in a PR election.
What is going on there? Is the sitting member not worried that maybe reducing his vote could cost him his seat? Of course there are two factors…Sinn Féin MLAs never really lose …they just get recycled to other duties within Sinn Féin. After all, everyone ahem..gets the average industrial wage.
So why isnt Dáithi McKay prominent as Chair of the Finance Committee at Stormont and a former winner of a Slugger O’Toole award (was it New MLA of the Year) so suddenly vulnerable?
But back in 2007, McKay was a surprise choice to run. The sitting SF MLA was Philip McGuigan and he was not selected. Arguably, he is still the most prominent SF politician in North Antrim.
Running two candidates with the possible risk of losing one of the most visible MLAs seems bizarre.