North Belfast is a constituency comprising areas like Antrim Road, Crumlin Road, Oldpark Road and Shore Road (the arterial roads leading north from the City Centre.)as far as the old village of Glengormley and Ligoneil. It includes prosperous areas like Antrim Road and working class areas like New Lodge and Ardoyne (nationalist) and Tigers Bay and Ballysillan (loyalist) and some interfaces.
Currently there are five MLAs…Sinn Féin(2), DUP (2), SDLP (1). Significantly Sinn Féin took the Westminster seat from DUP in 2019.
The spreadsheet shows Assembly 2017 and Westminster 2019 results. For the benefit of folks in USA, it is important to understand that Assembly is decided in eighteen constituencies where having a quota of votes is required to win one of five seats. And Westminster is decided on a simple “first past the post” vote. I also include the runners and riders for 2022.
The quota is likely to be less than 7,000 votes.
Last week, I took the bus from Belfast City Centre along Antrim Road to Glengormley. And then from Glengormley along the Shore Road to York Road, thru Tigers Bay and New Lodge Road to Antrim Road and to the city centre.
Everything in this constituency seems distorted by the Westminster Election. Dodds of DUP has been losing ground for years but against a divided opposition and the unionist tendency to circle the wagons, the inevitable passing of a once-safe unionist seat to John Finucane son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane was accelerated by the response to Brexit and the coalition of Sinn Féin, SDLP and Greens in four constituencies.
Nothing succeeds like Success. Nothing fails like Failure. The DUP have the stench of Failure and Decay.
Gerry Kelly posters are in the Upper Antrim Road and Glengormley and Caral Ní Chuilín posters in the New Lodge Road area. Both are former republican prisoners. The Finucane vote in 2019 includes loaned votes from Green Party and SDLP …probably a total of 7,000 votes. That should leave enough for two quotas. But not safe.
Relatively young and moderate DUP newcomers at this level. Brett posters appear at Glengormley and Shore Road and Kingston posters in Antrim Road and Tigers Bay. The Nigel Dodds vote of 20,000 in 2019 is actually a pan-unionist vote. I do not expect the DUP vote to exceed 11,000.
Philip Brett’s brother was shot dead by the UDA as he chatted with Catholic friends near the GAA club in Glengormley
Nichola Mallon is Minister for Infrastructure and Deputy Leader of SDLP. Her higher profile should increase her 2017 votes and bring her close to the quota. The SDLP standing aside in 2019 ensured Finucane’s election. Will Sinn Féin show any gratitude in the form of transferred votes.
Described in some places as “progressive”, Julie Ann Corr-Johnson is a defection from PUP, the party with links to loyalist paramilitaries. I am not sure what this says about Doug Beattie’s allegedly modern “union of people” party. I cant say that I am surprised that our “progressive” media has noticed this.
Still Ms Corr-Johnson got over 2,000 votes as a PUP candidate in 2017 and if she retains the majority of the votes and adds to around 2,500 UUP votes….and with DUP on a losing streak, she could well take a seat here.
Nuala McAllister is one of those young Alliance politicians who seem to act like they are already a MLA. A political friend with good judgement says this is exactly the right thing to do. But this kinda thing irritates me and possibly a combination of karma, hubris and schadenfreude (sp) will ensure McAllister gets nowhere near the Assembly.
In pure electoral terms, going from 3,500 votes (2017) to almost 5,000 votes (2019) suggests that she has a chance of taking a seat.
The problem is assessing the true extent of the Alliance vote. A base of 3,500 added to the much hyped “surge” and how potential voters react to Alliance not being part of a broader anti-Brexit coalition.
Did “soft” unionist voters vote for McAllister because they had no wish to vote for Dodds. Did “soft” nationalists turn to McAllister because they did not want a Sinn Féin victory?
Do committed Sinn Féin voters punish McAllister for (as they might see it) almost granting a victory to Dodds?
Is Alliance still thinking a “plague on both your houses” or “one side is as bad as the other”?
Does the rise of the Greens limit Alliance “surge”?
Billy Hutchinson…the loyalist sectarian killer. He was jailed for a double murder, when two Catholics were shot dead in a drive-by shooting. The awkward thing about the 1998 Good Friday Agreement is that we had to tolerate people like him. The defection of Corr-Johnson in North Belfast and John Kyle in East Belfast …both to UUP…means that PUP is stripped of all pretence at Respectability. They will lose votes. A lot of Hutchinson posters around Shore Road and Tigers Bay.
A lot of Ferguson posters. Especially on Antrim Road and New Lodge. I think that the People Before Profit party has lost some impetus. I dont think there will be any real improvement on 1,500 votes.
In fairness, the only leafleters/canvassers that I saw on my trip was two PBP folks at the Antrim Road end of New Lodge. I did shout “Putin Before People” at them.
With two relatively moderate DUP candidates, Ron McDowell stands a good chance of picking up some right wing votes. There was no DUP candidate in 2017 (but Nelson McCausland was a DUP candidate and on the right of the party.
Mal O’Hara talks a good game and active on the doorsteps and could double his vote. The question is where do the Green transfers go.
As for the other candidates.
Lily Kerr (Workers Party) the veteran Unison trade union member stood in South Belfast in 2017. The Stickies have the problem of the People Before Profit party looking 21st century while the Workers Party is still in the 20th century.
The Aontú candidate, Sean MacNiochaill is from County Derry and will not make an impression.
Stafford Ward (unknown to me) is an Independent.