Assembly Election: East Derry

East Derry is a constituency which includes Coleraine, Limavady, Dungiven,and some coastal towns. Traditionally unionist but with a large Catholic minority and a university (UUC) at Coleraine.

East Derry..Currently there are five MLAs…DUP (2) SDLP (1) Sinn Féin (1)). Independent Unionist (1)

On Monday, I was in Coleraine. Actually a lot of evidence of the election.

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 around 7,000 votes.

DUP have two MLAs. The candidates this time are Maurice Bradley and Alan Robinson, whose father is an outgoing MLA. Neither are well known outside the constituency so at least one will be vulnerable to a swing against DUP.

Darryl Wilson. The UUP lost its quota here after internal dispute when David McClarty who left the party in 2011 and died in 2014. He nominated his staffer Claire Sugden to succeed him and she has been in the Assembly since.

Claire Sugden, former staffer of David McClarty who has been in Assembly since 2014. She has served as Minister for Justice from 2016 to 2017. All Independents have a shelf life and I expect Claire Sugden will find votes drifting away from her to UUP and Alliance.

Jordan Armstrong’s second successive Assembly election and likely to take some votes from DUP.

Caoimhe Archibald is an outgoing MLA and Kathleen McGurk is a newcomer. Sinn Féin have more than one quota.

Cara Hunter stood in the 2019 Westminster election. And surprisingly came second. In 2020, she was seconded to replace John Dallat who had died. This caused some local resentment. In recent years, the local party has bee n having too many disputes. Will it cost the SDLP a seat? Cara was the victim of sectarian abuse during the campaign.

No meaningful track record for the Greens in East Derry so Mark Coulson will do well to get 1,000 votes.

Peopl Before Profit stood in 2017 and Amy Merron will be hoping for 1,000 votes.

Ah the one to watch. McCaw turned 2,000 votes in 2017 into 6,000 in 2019. On his side Alliance will have momentum.

But this is a field with sixteen candidates.

Gemma Brolly an Irish language teacher. Aontú have been under-estimated in this election. This is one of their heartlands.

For the second successive Assembly election, a split in the SDLP.

In 2017, Gerry Mullan was de-selected and stood as an Independent. It nearly cost the SDLP candidate John Dallat a seat.

Stephanie Quigley stood for SDLP in 2017 Westminster election and I would have assumed natural successor to John Dallat’s seat.

She did not stand in the 2019 Westminster election and Cara Hunter performed well, taking second place. This handed pole position to Cara who was then co-opted for Stormont.

Russell Watton PUP. Scored almost 1,000 votes in 2017. Probably less this time.

Billy Stewart no impact.

Niall Murphy will not make an impact.


No but a very long count. I am not a regular visitor to Coleraine but I was at a funeral in the Catholic church some years ago and discovered there is a small nationalist housing estate across the River Bann from the town centre.

Actually it is quite a lot bigger and more assertive than I recall.

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Assembly Election 2022: North Antrim

North Antrim is a constituency which includes Ballymena, Ballymoney, Bushmills, Ballycastle. The buckle on Norn Iron’s Bible Belt. A nationalist area around Ballycastle.

North Antrim : Currently there are five MLAs…DUP (2) UUP (1) TUV (1) Sinn Féin (1).

On Monday, I passed thru Ballymoney and later stopped off in Ballymena. Frankly little sign of an election in Ballymena.

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 will be high. Maybe 8,000 votes.

North Antrim is an odd constituency marked by unionist infighting and a bunker mentality against nationalists.

Paul Frew has been allocated Ballymena and Mervyn Storey has been allocated Ballymoney. Both big hitters. If either lost it would be big news. Ultimately this is Paisley territory…where Rev Ian first began his political career over fifty years ago. And where his son Ian Junior is practically MP for life.

Robin Swann is Minister for Health and based in Ballymena, No posters. He is credited with doing the best job possible during COVID and despised by Anti-Vaxers. But the Health Service is in crisis. And he deserves no credit for that.

Running mate is Bethany Ferris.

To some extent Jim Allister is the “New Ian Paisley” . Some would say rabble-rouser. Some would say thorn in the side of the unionist “Establishment”. In 2022, the unionist establishment is the DUP. Jim aided and abetted by a shock jock on BBC Radio Ulster has really one issue…The Protocol. And an aversion to anything to do with nationalists.

Matthew Armstrong, his running mate is allocated to Ballymena.

Philip McGuigan the Sinn Féin MLA is likely to hold the nationalist quota.

Patricia O’Lynn has been making progress and tipped by some to take a seat. If he does, it will not be at the expense of “Sunny Jim” Allister or Philip McGuigan. It would have to be a big name…Fre, Storey or Swann.

I think it is a bridge too far.

Eugene Reid is SDLP candidate and in recent years SDLP has failed to bring out its core vote in North Antrim.

Green Party candidate Paul Veronica will not make an impression.

Laird Singleton is an Independent Unionist.


None. But Jim Allister is a “one man band” but a noisy one. He really needs to get a few TUV folks elected or just be labeled as a marginalised figure.

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Assembly Election 2022: South Antrim

A constituency comprising Antrim Town and other areas like Ballyclare, stretching to North Belfast at Glengormley.

South Antrim: Currently five MLAs: DUP (2) UUP (1). Alliance (1) Sinn Féin (1)

Friday 29th April. Antrim Town. The first surprise was the large SDLP billboard at the Railway/Bus station. The billboard contrasts a monochrome Jeffrey Donaldson and Trevor Clarke with colourful Colum Eastwood and Roisín Lynch. Seemingly Clarke does not like the billboard as it draws attention to…record.

The second surprise is the number of nationalist SDLP, Sinn Féin and Aontú posters around the town.

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 will be around 7,000

Trevor Clarke was a MLA who lost his seat in 2017 and co-opted when Paul Girvan went to Westminster in 2019. He attracted some adverse publicity and SDLP seem to be targeting him. There is a billboard at Antrim Train/Bus station which compares He and Jeffrey Donaldson unfavourably with Colum Eastwood and Roisín Lynch.

Clarke has been allocated the Antrim area and “Glam Pam” Cameron the rest of the constituency.

Former UUP Leader and ex-British Navy officer, “Submarine” Steve Aiken is a sitting MLA. Paul Michael, a newcomer has been allocated the Antrim area.

Danny Kinahan’s 12,000 votes in Westminster 2019 is a respectable vote but boosted by tactical voting. It would be a major coup if UUP took a second seat here.

There is certainly a republican/nationalist seat in South Antrim. And Declan Kearney and Sinn Féin would be favourite.

John Blair is interesting. He replaced David Ford who retired in 2018. Ford only secured 5,000 votes in 2017 and Blair did well to get 8,000 at Westminster 2019. This despite losing tactical votes to Danny Kinahan.

This not only suggests a comfortable quota but possibly transfers.

The SDLP are putting in a lot of effort here. But they need a perfect storm. A good first preference vote and transfers and getting some traction from “Clarke or Lynch”.

TUV did not stand in 2019, backing Paul Girvan of DUP against Danny Kinahan so the true strength is not easy to determine. Probably at least 2,500

Roisin Bennett could be the kingmaker here. Initially taking votes from Sinn Féin and SDLP and maybe trickling back as transfers.

Likewise Jerry Maguire People Before Profit. His second preference votes will be more interesting than first preferences.

Lesley Veronica. Unlikely to make an impact except for transfers.

Andrew Moran is an Independent and wont really count.


None as such. But the unionist infighting might well allow someone under the radar. A long count.

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Assembly Election 2022: East Antrim

East Antrim includes towns such as Larne and Carrickfergus, staunchly unionist and extends into the Glens of Antrim which is nationalist.

I was in East Antrim (Larne and Carrickfergus) and Antrim (South Antrim) on Friday

East Antrim. Current make up is DUP (2), UUP (2). Alliance (1).

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 will be over 6,000.

East Antrim is a DUP/UUP stronghold. Yet in the present climate it is hard to see any way that they can hold four seats. For the DUP Gordon Lyons is one of their senior figures, a minister in the recent Executive.

He is based in Larne, the epicentre of the Protocol controversy.

Davy Hilditch is based in Carrickfergus, He seems to have been around for ever.

UUP: Roy Beggs….still sometimes referred to as Roy Beggs junior has been a MLA since 1998 and one of the Deputy Speakers in Stormont. His father Roy Beggs senior is now 86 and was MP for East Antrim for twenty years.Beggs posters are in Larne but I note he has an office in Larne.

John Stewart posters are in Carrickfergus.

To some extent it is a surprise that UUP has parity with the DUP here. And for Doug Beattie’s “union of people” rhetoric to be credible, the UUP needs to hold its two seats.

Alliance have two candidates. Veteran MLA, Stewart Dickson and Danny Donnelly who has been knocking on the door for some time,

Donnelly stood in the 2019 election. His 10,000 votes boosted by some tactical voting. But he is certainly being promoted by the party. His posters are in Larne and Carrickfergus.

Norman Boyd is TUV candidate. This is a constituency where TUV is expected to do well but a quota is probably beyond them.

We are all familiar with the phrase “head lower than a Catholic in Larne” so quite possibly Catholics in the town will be relieved. Back in 1998, SDLP took a seat in East Antrim, which led to a small ant-Catholic pogrom. So nationalist votes in coastal villages will find their way thru first preferences and transfers to Alliance.

Siobhán McAlister is from Cushendall. She will be hoping to raise the SDLP profile. She is the only woman in the contest.

Her poster was outside the Catholic church/primary school.

Oliver Mcullan (Sinn Féin) lost his seat in 2017 and unlikely to regain it.

Mark Bailey (Green Party) might have the transfers to help Alliance.



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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.


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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Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

Unfortunately I have to be away from home for a few days.

I might not even get to vote on Thursday..

Nothing to worry about. Just something I have to do.

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Assembly Election 2022: South Down

South Down is a constituency which includes Downpatrick, Newcastle, Warrenpoint and Kilkeel. The north of the constituency is commuter land to Belfast. The south is seaside resorts and small fishing ports. It is mostly nationalist and there are unionist areas around Kilkeel. A lot of farming in the Mourne Mountains.

Currently there are five MLAs…Sinn Féin (2) SDLP (2) DUP (1)). The DUP member left the Party to become Independent.

On Friday, I was in Downpatrick. Between now and election date, I hope to travel to either Newcastle or Warrenpoint.

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 will be quite high at over 8,000.

The Sinn Féin candidates are Cathy Mason who was co-opted to replace Chris Hazzard when he went to Westminster and Warrenpoint-based Sinéad Ennis. The two most recent elections suggest two quotas.

The retirement of Sinéad Bradley means that the SDLP candidates are current MLA, Colin McGrath and former MLA, Karen McKevitt.

This is a constituency where the SDLP is vulnerable.

The decline of SDLP in South Down needs to be halted. The party took two seats in 2017 but Alliance are believed to be on the point of picking up a seat.

To some extent, SDLP has been its own worst enemy here. There was heady talk that they could pick up the Westminster seat in 2019 if unionists voted tactically. It was not to be but the SDLP did not make a wise decision with their choice of candidate, Michael Savage.

Michael Savage had been the General Secretary of SDLP and only became a (co-opted) councillor on Newry and Mourne Council in 2017 and first elected to the council in May 2019.

So …in my view…not a good choice as he had no real pedigree as a an elected politician dealing with constituents issues. Worse perhaps, he was a councillor for Newry DEA which is actually in the Newry and Armagh constituency.

So effectively the South Down SDLP brought in an outsider when there were good councillors, notably Laura Devlin inside the constituency boundary.

South Down is always a tricky balancing act between strongholds like Downpatrick, Newcastle and Warrenpoint/Rostrevor. So shooting itself in the foot is not a good idea.

No doubt former Party Leader and MP, Margaret Ritchie is popular in some quarters but she left SDLP to become a member of the House of Lords. So I am not sure that having her canvass in South Down is a good idea.

It is not all bad news for SDLP in South Down.

There are four DEAs (Downpatrick, Mournes, Slieve Croob and Crotlieve) on Newry & Mourne District Council that are within South Down and a fifth (Rowallane) which is partly in South Down and Strangford.

A reality check. SDLP outvotes Alliance in all four South Down DEAs and Alliance outvotes SDLP in Rowallane.

It may be crucial, SDLP has eight councillors and Alliance only two. But of course Alliance can pick up unionist transfers.

In terms of election chances, this time around Alliance are deemed to have a good chance. But based on 4,500 votes in 2017, that still seems unlikely. Based on 7,000 in 2019, it is more likely.

I have tried to be fair to Alliance and all parties in these profiles but I make an exception in the case of Patrick Brown.

If you want to know anything about him, GOOGLE him. Sorry.

The unionist side of South Down is confusing. Jim Wells has held the DUP seat for decades and he has now left politics. He had been out of favour with DUP leadership for a few years and has now endorsed the TUV candidate, Harold McKee (the 2017 UUP candidate) who got over 4,000 votes. Confusing.

Diane Forsythe is the DUP candidate. They hold a seat thru Jim Wells. But she left DUP last year and rejoined a short time later

Jill McCauley UUP is undermined by many UUP members in South Down following Harold McKee to TUV. The transfers will be interesting…DUP or TUV but maybe enough to get Alliance a seat.

Rosemary McGlone (Aontú) can build on over 1,200 votes for the party from 2019. Still a party attached to Catholic doctrine on Pro-Life, there is certainly a base in South Down but where do transfers go.

Noeleen Lynch (Green). The party had less than 500 votes in 2017 and maybe 1,000 will be the maximum. Transfers likely to SDLP and Alliance.

Paul McCrory (People Before Profit) …the first time PBP have stood in the constituency.

Paddy Clarke…regular Independent with 192 votes in 2019.


None except it will be one of the constituencies to watch.

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The Disappearing Green Man (A Mid Ulster Mystery)

Some things you cannot make up.

I was on a bus between Antrim and Belfast when I was alerted to the news that the Green Party had ceased campaigning in Mid Ulster and the candidate is “no longer endorsed” by the Party.

The statement issued by the Greens is very curious

“We have ceased campaigning in the Mid Ulster constituency as the Green Party NI candidate has withdrawn from the campaign.

Whilst he will still appear on the ballot paper, his membership of the party has been suspended, and he is no longer endorsed by the Green Party NI”.

To break this down

1 they have ceased campaigning AS (because???) the candidate has withdrawn…”

presumably this means he withdrew himself rather than been withdrwan by the Party.

2 he will still appear on the ballot paper

Well yes….but have postal votes been issued and have people actually voted for him already?

3 his membership has been suspended.

Well that is clearly a matter for the Green Party. But was he suspended because he withdrew? Or was there some incident leading to withdrawin?.

The most curious aspect is that the Green Party has no further comment to make. The Greens are a bit mouthy and always have comments to make.

In fairness, Stefan Taylor is hardly a household name. He got less than 500 votes in the two most recent Assembly elections.

So is a candidate already on a ballot paper and suspended by his Party a news story? Or is it only a story if it is Sinn Féin, DUP, UUP, SDLP? Can you imagine the Slugger O’Toole headline?

The Greens rightly complained that the BBC was giving more coverage in this election to TUV (one MLA) than to the Greens (two MLAs). I even signed a petition to support the Greens.

They have a right to be heard. And a right to be silent.

But I think that the voters in Mid Ulster deserve a full explanation. We all do.

How many members do the Green Party have? 500? More?

They deserve an explanation and no doudt their WhatsUp group is filled with”What is going on? and “Ssssh dont talk to the Press”

For all their democracy, there is probably a Green inner circle who know the story. And an outer circle that knows some of it. Nothing wrong with that of course. It would be the same in any party.

There might be good reasons why the story is not public. But being embarrassed is not a good reason

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Vote “Muppet”

Odd “election poster” in Downpatrick (South Down constituency) yesterday.

Is Kermit better than Patrick Brown (Alliance Party) ?

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Brave Women…Cowardly Men

All of us who are committed to Democracy will be outraged at the attack on Hannah Kenny of People Before Profit in East Belfast last night.

She was subject to sexist and sectarian abuse. It follows on from the attack on Elsie Trainor (SDLP, South Belfast) a few weeks ago.

Other women like Cara Hunter in East Derry have also been targets.

Big brave men.

This election is marked by two things. On the plus side, I have been heartened to see posters in places once deemed unlikely. And canvassers reaching out. A very good sign. On the reverse side I have heard canvassers abused. Paul Doherty (SDLP) abused on Shankill Road and Conor Houston (also SDLP) billboard vandalised in Newtownards.

To be absolutely clear, I am not making it an issue that is about SDLP. Far from it. As a supporter, these are the stories (and others) that I am most likely to hear about. I obviously do not hear as much about other parties and I suspect for every story of abuse that makes the news or social media, there are scores that do not.

Abuse goes with the territory…literally.

This village is 100% nationalist. There are DUP, UUP, TUV posters within its limits. Also predictably SDLP, Sinn Féin and Alliance.

It reflects well on our village. I am proud of that.

But these attacks on women….are just beyond the Pale.

Charlotte Carson (SDLP East Belfast), her posters have been damaged or stolen (no doubt to decorate a bonfire later in the year). And just how insulting is that? Nobody in politics should pass (possibly with their children) a decorated bonfire and see their image prepared to be burned.

It is pure HATRED and we need legislature to make this a hate-crime that should be prosecuted more thoroughly.

These are brave people.

I am a fully paid up coward. Ahead of the 1973 Assembly Election, I was canvassing with SDLP in West Belfast..on Springfield Road and we decided to demonstrate our anti-sectarian credentials and cross into Ainsworth Avenue.

We got a few leaflets thru doors before we were chased. But I can always claim that I got two leaflets thru doors on Ainsworth Avenue.

There is nothing worse than these vile attacks. We have to ask who is getting attacked. We have to ask who is doing the attacking.

There is a curious imbalance.

We are politically somehow obliged to say that one community is as bad as the other. I am not a politician. If we call a spade a shovel, these sectarian attacks seem like one way.

But I have to be optimistic. Two weeks ago I was in East Belfast. There are still some parts of Lower Newtownards Road where I would consider unwise for me to be. It is a generational thing.

One surprise in East Belfast was the number of People Before Profit posters all along Newtownards Road. And quite a few SDLP posters.

Indeed one of Charlotte Carson’s posters was at Holywood Arches which…yes its a generational thing…surprised me. And a few days ago, I was on a bus coming from Bangor, I looked across fully expecting it to be removed. It was still there. We cant judge people by the bad behaviour of a few.

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