Profile: East Antrim

Candidates:
DUP: Alastair Ross. David Hilditch. Gordon Lyons.
UUP: Roy Beggs. John Stewart. Maureen Morrow.
Alliance: Stewart Dickson. Danny Donnelly.
Sinn Féin: Oliver McMullan.
SDLP: Margaret Anne McKillop.
TUV: Ruth Wilson.
UKIP: Noel Jordan.
PUP: Jim McCaw.
Green: Dawn Patterson.
Labour Alternative: Conor Sheridan.

Normally thought of as a DUP stronghold but the emergence of fringe unionist parties threatens DUP dominance. The DUP cause is not helped by Sammy Wilson MP being confined to Westminster. The decline of the DUP from just below half the vote (2011) to 36% will bother them. Understandably, they are only fielding their three outgoing MLAs.
UUP saw their vote share rise to around 20% but are optimistically fielding two other candidates alongside Roy Beggs Junior.
With East Antrim Catholics/nationalists traditionally preferring a low profile, Alliance have tended to do well here. Stewart Dickson, outgoing MLA has a running mate but realistically Alliance taking two seats here depends on the nationalists being eliminated and transferring to the least bad alternative.
Oliver McMullan defends SF seat and Margaret Anne McKillop is representing SDLP.

In Norn Iron terms, there is not a lot of difference between TUV and UKIP and based on 2015 Westminster figures, there is a quota to the right of DUP. UKIP had the advantage last year but it seems to have imploded with Henry Reilly leaving UKIP for TUV and David McNarry leaving Politics. TUV also have an advantage in specifically Norn Iron terms.

Prediction….DUP 2, UUP 1, Alliance 1, TUV 1…..sixth seat will be played thru the transfers and DUP, Alliance, Sinn Féin and hopefully SDLP are in the mix.

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Gerry And The N Word

It is ironic that I am still drafting a post on Anti Semitism and the Labour Party. It s possible to “do nuance” in a longish blog, an essay, a dissertation and a book. Nuance is not possible in Twitter. All you get is 140 characters . Twitter is a form ofgraffiti.

What happened last night?

Seemingly, Gerry Adams was watching “Django-Unchained” a movie about Slavery in the United States. And he reaches for his ipad to tweet …in very blunt terms…that the experience was same as the Catholic experience in Ballymurphy, a Belfast housing estate built in early 1950s.

Gerry Adams lived in Ballymurphy. So did I (from 1970 to 1979). He and I both know that despite the problems pre-dating the Troubles….and despite incidents like the Ballymurphy Massacre (August 1971) ….Ballymurphy was NOT Birmingham, Alabama. Lets get that clear.

You have seen the tweet and its follow up which suggests that Gerry Adams and his army of Twitter followers saw no problem with it. No point in reproducing it in this post…once was enough….but it was deleted some twenty minutes after it as first posted. Understandably it caused outrage and anger.

How can people react to this? Well most nationalists, including ordinary decent Sinn Féin members and supporters will be as outraged as I am. There are perhaps two alternative reactions….some SF supporters might brazen it out “Gerry saying it as it is” and actually agreeing with him. Some might see a context and try to spin out the nuance.

But really the point is if you can say something in 140 characters on Twitter and you have to make a speech to defend it, then you should not have said it in the first place.

Therefore the Sinn Fëin spinners are having a bad day. Either they say “the Party Leader was absolutely right” OR they say “well lets put this in context”. Neither works.

Gerry Adams has issued a non-apology….IF anyone was offended, he is sorry. Its the mode of apology in the 21st century putting an onus on those offended rather than Gerry Adams.

This is post-Long Kesh Gerry Adams who his supporters liken to a post Robin Island Nelson Mandela.It is a comparison that Adams likes. Gerry Adams is no Nelson Mandela. Gerry Adams is no Rosa Parks. To some extent, we have had to listen to the bombast. But he condemns himself when he pressed the “send” button and further condemns himself by blandly telling us he was a founding member of the Civil Rights Association.

Perhaps “Django Unchained” was a bad choice for late night viewing. Maybe a relaxing Disney movie….”Pinnochio” perhaps.

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Gerry Adams…Statesman?

So …Gerry Adams….Asset or Liability?

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How is it that Gerry Adams, the Statesman, the Visionary and allegedly friend of Nelson Mandela, thought it was appropriate to tweet as above? How is it that eleven minutes after the first tweet, he compounds this with a second tweet.

Both tweets have now been deleted but it will be interesting to see how Sinn Féin try to spin this one away.

The worrying thing is that these tweets were actually “liked” by some of Mr Adams followers.

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Profile: South Antrim

Candidates:
DUP: Trevor Clarke. Pamela Cameron. Paul Girvan.
UUP: Adrian Cochrane Watson. Paul Michael. Stephen Aiken.
UKIP: Robert Hill.
TUV: Richard Cairns.
Alliance: David Ford.
SDLP: Roisin Lynch.
Sinn Féin: Declan Kearney.
Green: Helen Farley.
Conservative: Mark Young.
Independent: David McMaster.

Outgoing MLAs…three DUP, one UUP, one Alliance. SInn Féin held the sixth seat thru Mitchel McLaughlin who has retired.
Whether the balance of power will chance because Danny Kinahan (UUP) won the Westminster seat last year remains to be seen. DUP, Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Féin all lost percentage points in 2015.
I dont expect DUP to fully recover. Nor do I expect UUP to fully take advantage of Kinahan’s victory.
Yet South Antrim is a constituency where all Parties seem to be tantalisingly short of where they need to be.
Only two safe quotas for DUP and one each for UUP and Sinn Féin.
The other two seats…I think a three-way fight….DUP, Alliance (I am not entirely convinced that David Ford is safe) and SDLP.
Roisin Lynch is a good candidate but if she is to get over the line, she will need a lot of first preference votes…there will be few transfers available.

Prediction: DUP 2, UUP 1, Sinn Féin 1, Alliance 1, …..and hopefully SDLP 1.

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Profile: South Down

Candidates:
SDLP: Sean Rogers. Colin McGrath. SInead Bradley.
Sinn Féin: Caitriona Ruane. Chris Hazard. MIchael Gray Sloan.
UUP: Harold McKee.
DUP: Jim Wells.
TUV: Henry Reilly.
Alliance: Patrick Brown.
Green: John Hardy.
Independent: John McCallister.

The position in 2011 was two SDLP, two Sinn Féin, one DUP and one UUP (John McCallister would defect to help form the ill-fated NI21 and is standing as an Independent this time). SDLP held the Westminster seat easily in 2015.
SDLP position here is quite strong….35% of the votes in 2011 and 42% in 2015. Allowing for the fact that some Westminster votes may have been loaned by unionists, the true position of strength is around 38% which gives SDLP two seats and a shout at three seats.
Typically, SDLP go with three candidates based in three areas of strength….Sean Rogers (Newcastle area), Colin McGrath (Downpatrick area) and Sinead Bradley (Rostrevor/Warrenpoint area). Sean is the only outgoing SDLP MLA, Colin is a long time associate of Margaret Ritchie MP and Sinead is daughter of former MLA, P J Bradley. Very much a case of any two from three…all will go close to the quota.

Sinn Féin have flat-lined around 30% enough for two seats. Ms Ruane is not as prominent as she used to be and as her star has gone down, Chris Hazard has become more prominent.
The unionist vote is fractured but still likely to take two seats.
DUP vote dropped from 12% to 8% between 2011 and 2015. Some of this can be attributed to tactical voting for SDLP but some due to controversy around Jim Wells.
UUP are around 10% (but some at least will be McCallister votes) and there is a steady 5% for Henry Reilly (UKIP in 2015 and TUV this year).
How the unionist vote splinters and transfers will be crucial. In 2013 at two different SDLP events, John McCallister made speeches appealing for SDLP transfers. It might be interesting to see where his second preferences go.
Alliance/Green are merely transfer fodder.

So….prediction…..SDLP 2, Sinn Féin 2, DUP 1…..sixth seat too close to call.

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Profile: Fermanagh-South Tyrone

Candidates:
DUP: Arlene Foster. Maurice (Lord) Morrow.
UUP: Alastair Patterson. Rosemary Barton.
Sinn Féin: Michelle Gildernew. Sean Lynch. Phil Flanagan. John Feely.
SDLP: Richie McPhillips.
Alliance: Kerri Blyberg.
Green: Tanya Jones.
Labour Representation: Damien Harris.
TUV: Donald Crawford.

The 2011 breakdown here was three Sinn Féin, two DUP and one UUP. SF narrowly took a seat ahead of SDLP.
The 2014 local election showed a SDLP recovery and they now have a councillor in each of the DEAs in the constituency. With 12% of the vote should be enough to take the seat back.
Predictably the 2015 Westminster election was tribal and Michelle Gildernew (SF) lost out to Tom Elliott (UUP). It was a blow to Sinn Féin. With UUP and SF taking over 90% of votes cast, the only real pointer for 2016 is that there will be three nationalists and three unionists elected.
Since their defeat, SF have managed to make a bad situation worse, with a succession of botched selection conventions. The first one dumped outgoing MLA Phil Flanagan. The second dumped Gildernew and managed to select three Fermanagh men, weakening their position with South Tyrone and women voters. The third convention added Gildernew to the ticket but four candidates seems too many.
Phil Flanagan is either a loose cannon or semi-detached from his Party but has arguably the second highest profile behind Gilnernew. Vote management will be vital for them to retain three seats….and yet their strategy is a “secret”.
Richie McPhillips has reason to be confident. The 2014 votes are a better indication of the true strength of SDLP in the constituency. And SDLP will be transfer -friendly to the minor parties such as Alliance and Greens.
With only four “serious” unionists on the ballot paper, the breakdown will be two DUP…First Minister Arlene Foster and Maurice Morrow will be re-elected. Alastair Patterson recently co-opted for Neil Somerville (himself a co-option for Tom Elliott) is probably better placed than Rosemary Barton.

So….prediction ….DUP 2, Sinn Féin 2, UUP 1, SDLP 1.

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Profile: Mid Ulster

The candidates:
Sinn Féin: Michelle O’Neill. Ian Milne. Linda Dillon.
SDLP: Patsy McGlone.
DUP: Ian McCrea. Keith Buchanan.
UUP: Sandra Overend.
Alliance: Neidin Loughran.
Green: Stefan Taylor.
Workers Party: Hugh Scullion.
TUV: Hannah Loughrin.
UKIP: Alan Day.

In this constituency, there is a traditional 4:2 advantage for nationalists. The breakdown is three Sinn Féin, one SDLP, one DUP and one UUP. There will be no surprises this time. In fact, only twelve people (seven seriously) are contesting the election.
Sinn Féin are only putting up three candidates and SDLP just one candidate and all will be elected.
The story on the Sinn Féin side is that Martin McGuinness has moved to Foyle constituency. If McGuinness has a personal vote because of his high profile, then it surely follows that there would be a drop in the SF vote if he is not on the ticket. SDLP have missed a trick here as they would be the main beneficiary. But with only Patsy McGlone standing, there is no prospect to test it.
Am I saying that SDLP could gain a seat here? No…but at least SDLP should have made SF fight to retain three seats. A bad decision.
On the unionist side, DUP comfortably outvoted UUP in 2011 but UUP outvoted DUP in 2015. This can largely be attributed to the emergence of TUV and UKIP who polled respectably.
Sandra Overend is the only UUP candidate so is assured of election.
There is however an internal DUP competition for the Party’s seat. I hardly know much about DUP internal politics in Mid Ulster but there is a suggestion that Ian McCrea is not overly popular.
The main story to emerge here might be McCrea losing out to his running mate but the name recognition factor for Rev William McCrea’s son should swing it for the outgoing MLA. The internal division is unlikely to let in TUV or UKIP.
The candidates from Greens, Alliance and Workers Party might do better in percentage terms than their usual derisory vote…due largely to the lack of real competition here and the apathy that will result.
So…prediction….SF 3, SDLP 1, DUP 1, UUP 1.

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