Assembly Election 2022: Foyle

Foyle is a constituency whih is really just the City of Derry. It is so called because a choice of “Derry” or “L*****derry” would be too controversial. The city is much changed from my first visit after Bloody Sunday in 1972. There is a small unionist community at the Fountain and a larger mixed area in the Waterside (east of the river). This is the city of John Hume, Martin McGuinness and more recently….the Derry Girls.

Foyle: Currently there are five MLAs…Sinn Féin (2) SDLP (2) DUP (1)).

I was in Derry on Monday. I love this city.

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

A quota of maybe 7,500.

The story here is that SDLP fell behind Sinn Féin in the very heartland of SDLP in 2017and Elisha McCallion defeated Mark Durkan (uncle of Mark H Durkan) for the Westminster seat. This is “John Hume’s Seat” and a crushing defeat for the party.

In 2019, Colum Eastwood romped home with almost 27,000 votes to Ms McCallions 10,000. A defeat that so angered Sinn Féin that they purged the district party, unceremoniously sacking sitting MLAs and co-opting new people.

Colum’s vote in 2019 suggests that SDLP is on course to get two seats. But the vote has encouraged the Party to try for three seats. It is always a risk that requires careful vote management.

The two sitting MLAs are Mark H Durkan (nephew of former Leader Mark Durkan). I was only in the city centre but his posters are along Strand Road and in the Bogside.

Sinéad McLaughlin was co-opted when Colum Eastwood went to Westminster. She is the leading Pro-Choice advocate in SDLP. Mark H is a leading Pro-Life advocate. Her posters are along Shipquay Street and in the Waterside.

Brian Tierney is the current Mayor of Derry/Strabane. He is “well got” in Derry. Son of former MLA John Tierney. His posters are in the Long Tower area and on a recent trip, I saw his posters outside the city centre on the road to County Donegal.

The problem with vote management is that any one of the three candidates could lose out. Co-options for SDLP in Derry. Both Pól O’Callaghan and Gerard Diver failed to keep their seats at the next election.

The figures from 2017 are good for Sinn Féin. The 2019 figures are a disaster. Is the true strength of the Party 18,000 or 10,000? Probably somewhere in between …enough for two quotas.

Gary Middleton (DUP) is the sole unionist MLA. There is certainly a unionist quota in the city and while there were only 6,000 unionist votes in 2018, this is an indication of tactical votes for Colum Eastwood to defeat Sinn Féin. This poster is in the Fountain area and there is probably many in the Waterside. A little disconcerting there is none of any unionist in the city centre…not that I saw.

DUP is under pressure from moderate UUP and extreme TUV.

Ryan McCready comes across as the new type of UUP, favoured by Doug Beattie. He is active on social media. But there is only one unionist quota available. There might be a tussle with Gary Middleton.

Elizabeth Neely (TUV) gives some choice to the unionist electorate. This poster was at the Derry Railway Station.

People Before Profit. Has their bubble burst? Shaun Harkin has been hyped to take a seat once held by Eamonn McCann. But Harkin is not McCann. At best he can transfer to SDLP and Sinn Féin.

Emmett Doyle. First test for Aontú. The main plank in their platform is anti-Abortion. This in some way is the pitch that Anne McCloskey has already claimed.

Dr Anne McCloskey. Unusual to see “Dr” on an election poster. She took 2,000 votes in 2019. She has somehow expanded her views beyond Pro-Life.

Colly McLaughlin. Really just a matter of getting publicity for a marginalised party.

Rachel Ferguson (Alliance) will obviously improve on her 2019 performance. But she is being over-hyped.

Gillian Hamilton represents the Green Party. But the Greens have no track record here.

PREDICTION

None. Could be a very long count.

As always, it is in the hands of the voters. These are some voters who were just 17 in 1998.

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