Strangford: UUP target is to win – and this time hold – second seat

Ukip build a base, but with David McNarry not running, seat is under threat

The Northern Ireland Assembly election will take place on Thursday, May 5th. Each of the 18 constituencies – including Strangford – will elect six Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).

The Northern Ireland Assembly election will take place on Thursday, May 5th. Each of the 18 constituencies – including Strangford – will elect six Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).

 

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt is anxious to win back the party’s second seat it dropped when David McNarry defected to Ukip after the last Northern Ireland Assembly election.

Taking in the National Trust’s Mount Stewart estate, Scrabo Tower, the rolling hills of mid-Down and Strangford Lough, candidates will be out canvassing for votes in towns such as Ballynahinch, Comber, Newtownards and Portaferry, and villages including Saintfield and Killyleagh.

The outgoing MLAs are the DUP’s investment Minister Jonathan Bell, health Minister Simon Hamilton, and regional development Minister Michelle McIlveen, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, retiring Alliance Party MLA Kieran McCarthy and Ukip leader in Northern Ireland David McNarry, who is also not standing for re-election.

Ukip will be hard-pressed to hold the seat. As Mr McNarry was elected under the UUP banner in 2011 some of his votes would be expected return to the Ulster Unionists. Mr Nesbitt will be hoping this time to bring his running mate, former Ards mayor Philip Smith, with him on May 5th.

In 2011, Ukip only managed to win 601 votes in Strangford. Mr McNarry, however, has attempted to strengthen the party’s foundations here and believes the party’s Brexit and other policies will find favour among the electorate.


Strangford factfile

How the constituency compares

3.1%

Unemployment claimants
Level: medium. Rank: 7 of 18

4.9%

Levels of poor health
Level: medium. Rank: 11 of 18

Religion


The Alliance Party’s Kieran McCarthy has stepped down from the Assembly so it is up to Kellie Armstrong, a well known councillor in the area, to attempt to retain the seat for the party. She polled just 439 first preferences when elected to the North Down and Ards District Council last year.

Mr McCarthy, however, has developed a strong base for Alliance in Strangford and Ms Armstrong has a good chance of holding the seat.

For years Joe Boyle has been the SDLP’s “nearly man” in Strangford, getting close but never gaining enough seats for a breakthrough. It could well be the same story this time.

The DUP does very well in Strangford. It is currently represented by Jim Shannon at Westminster and has three MLAs at Stormont – Mr Bell, Mr Hamilton and Ms McIlveen – all Ministers which adds to their profile.

Prediction

Ukip leader David McNarry enjoys a big media profile, but his candidate for the Strangford seat, Stephen Crosby, is not so well known. Mr McNarry only saw off the DUP’s candidate, Billy Walker, in 2011 by 169 votes. Mike Nesbitt could take advantage and get his running mate over the line and gain back a second seat for the party.

The DUP is running four candidates, indicating they see a chance of further conquest but a fourth seat may be over ambitious.

DUP (3), UUP (2), Alliance (1)

Candidates
Kellie Armstrong (Alliance)
Jonathan Bell (DUP)
Joe Boyle (SDLP)
Stephen Cooper (TUV)
Stephen Crosby (Ukip)
Georgia Grainger (Greens)
Dermot Kennedy (Sinn Féin)
Simon Hamilton (DUP)
Harry Harvey (DUP)
Bill McKendry (NI Conservatives)
Michelle McIlveen (DUP)
Mike Nesbitt (UUP)
Philip Smith (UUP)