South Antrim: Confident UUP have second seat in their sights
Declan Kearney expected to hold Sinn Féin seat after retirement of Mitchel McLaughlin
The Northern Ireland Assembly election will take place on Thursday, May 5th. Each of the 18 constituencies – including South Antrim – will elect six Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
The Ulster Unionist Party’s Danny Kinahan taking the South Antrim Westminister seat from the Democratic Unionist Party’s Rev William McCrea was one of the big stories of the 2015 Westminster election.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt was beaming from ear to ear when Mr Kinahan won the seat last year in a moment that marked the party returning to the green benches of the House of Commons for the first time in more than a decade.
Mr Nesbitt says the party is on the up and speaks of Mr Kinahan’s election – and that of Tom Elliott in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, albeit as a result of an electoral pact with the DUP – as an endorsement of the party after years of decline.
When Mr Kinahan headed to London, Adrian Cochrane-Watson was co-opted to the Assembly.Mr Nesbitt is fielding three candidates – along with Cochrane-Watson the UUP is fielding Steve Aiken, a former Royal Navy nuclear submarine captain and Cllr Paul Michael.
The hope for the party is that the boost of Mr Kinahan’s election to Westminster will push a second MLA across the line for the UUP – presumably at the expense of the DUP.
The outgoing MLAs for South Antrim – a constituency which includes Antrim, Ballyclare and Templepatrick, where Belfast International Airport is based – are Pam Cameron, Trevor Clarke and Paul Givan of the DUP, Alliance Party leader and outgoing justice minister David Ford, outgoing Stormont Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Féin and the UUP’s Mr Cochrane-Watson.
South Antrim factfile
How the constituency compares
Level: medium. Rank: 8 of 18
Levels of poor health
Level: medium. Rank: 14 of 18
Mr Givan topped the poll in 2011 with 4,844 votes, closely followed by Sinn Féin’s Mr McLaughlin with 4,662.
Declan Kearney seems certain to take over the seat from Mr McLaughlin, the first nationalist Speaker at Stormont, who recently announced he was retiring from politics. Mr Kearney has been a key member of Sinn Féin’s national leadership for over a decade and has the role of national chairman and only saw Sinn Féin’s vote at the Westminster election last year dip by one per cent.
However, he does face a challenge for the nationalist vote from the SDLP candidate Cllr Roisin Lynch. The SDLP held a seat in South Antrim from 1998, but Thomas Burns suffered through boundary changes in 2011 and lost out to the DUP’s Pam Lewis.
It has a new candidate in the form of businesswoman Ms Lynch, a mother of seven and recent Ulster University graduate with interests in enterprise, education, mental health and the GAA.
She is active in the constituency, though it might be too much of a challenge for her to win a seat.
The Ulster Unionist Party is full of confidence and aiming for the stars on May 5th. Still, on balance, no change is likely.
The result could be:
DUP (3); UUP (1); Alliance (1); Sinn Féin (1).
Steve Aiken (UUP)
Richard William Cairns (TUV)
Pam Cameron (DUP)
Trevor Clarke (DUP)
Adrian Cochrane-Watson (UUP)
Helen Farley (Greens)
David RJ Ford (Alliance)
Paul Girvan (DUP)
Robert Hill (Ukip)
Declan Kearney (Sinn Féin)
Roisin Lynch (SDLP)
David McMaster (Ind)
Paul Michael (UUP)
Mark David Young (Conservatives)