Constituency Profile: Upper Bann

 

A HOTLY contested constituency on both sides of the political divide, Upper Bann was once held by David Trimble, now Lord Lisnagarvey. It’s the scene too for Drumcree and, more recently, for dissident republican trouble, including the murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll just over two years ago.

In crude numerical terms there are two nationalist quotas here and four unionist ones. That has been the pattern at previous Assembly elections. This time, Sinn Féin are looking to the possibility of a third nationalist quota and the population trend seems to support this. Were they to win a second seat, it’s possible it could be through unseating the SDLP, rather than a unionist.

The DUP could be in with a shout for a third seat, but is only running two candidates. David Simpson is now the full-time MP for the party here and has passed his Assembly seat to a co-opted colleague. The effect of his absence from the ticket is hard to guess. Two seats seem probable, but that could mean lots of spare DUP preferences are available.

The Ulster Unionists were very fortunate to have their man George Savage take a second seat for them in 2007. This time, by running a candidate with a well-known name, they are looking to improve.

Colin McCusker, son of the late Harold McCusker, carries a lot of hope for UUP headquarters here. He is running with Assemblyman Sam Gardiner and Joanne Dobson. However, and not for the first time in this election, UUP defectors are popping up in the colours of rival parties.

Harry Hamilton, a Freddie Mercury impersonator, won the highest total (nearly 26 per cent) in last year’s Westminster poll for the UUP. This time he’s running for the Alliance party after falling out over a selection convention. How transferrable his vote will be is anyone’s guess. What does seem optimistic is the running of two Alliance candidates.

The anti-agreement TUV is running David Vance, one of the party’s best performers after Jim Allister, who has transferred from East Belfast. His performance will be one to watch.

As the demographics edge slowly in favour of a third nationalist quota, Sinn Féin has pushed to maximise its vote. It tends to do better in Assembly elections than in Westminster, from which it abstains.

Dolores Kelly, rumoured to be the SDLP’s choice for a ministerial job in the next Executive, will be targeted by Sinn Féin if it feels it cannot yet secure a second quota from the growing nationalist population.

UPPER BANN: 6 SEATS:

OUTGOING:
Sydney Anderson (DUP),
Stephen Moutray (DUP),
John O'Dowd (SF),
Dolores Kelly (SDLP),
Samuel Gardiner (UUP),
George Savage (UUP).


CANDIDATES:
Sydney Anderson (DUP),
Stephen Moutray (DUP),
Johnny McGibbon (SF),
John O'Dowd (SF),
Dolores Kelly (SDLP),
Joanne Dobson (UUP),
Sam Gardiner (UUP),
Colin McCusker (UUP),
Harry Hamilton (All),
Sheila McQuaid (All),
Barbara Trotter (UKIP),
David Vance (TUV).


LOCAL ISSUES:

Dissident republican activity and drug-dealing dominate some areas while contentious loyalist
parades still to the fore in others.


VERDICT:DUP 2, SDLP 1, UUP 1, SF 1, Alliance 1