Upper Bann: Dolores Kelly and SDLP facing battle to hold off Sinn Féin

UUP and DUP in strong positions to hold their seats

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

 

Sinn Féin is putting a huge effort into getting two MLAs elected in Upper Bann .

Former SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly is facing a tough battle to retain her seat in the constituency, with Sinn Féin hoping that Catherine Seeley will join education minister John O’Dowd at Stormont.

Along with Ms Kelly and Mr O’Dowd, the other outgoing MLAs are Jo-Anne Dobson and Sam Gardiner of the UUP, and Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson of the DUP.

At last year’s Westminster election, where the DUP’s David Simpson was elected, Ms Kelly only managed 4,238 first preference votes, with Ms Seeley – known as Cat – taking 11,593.

However, Ms Kelly has been an MLA for Upper Bann since 2003 and has warned her detractors not to count her out.

Ms Seeley is the deputy mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council and is being positioned as a rising star in Sinn Féin.

Her election could be the bright spot for the party in what is shaping up to be a potentially difficult election campaign, as it is facing serious challenges in a number of constituencies, such as Fermanagh South Tyrone, West Belfast and East Antrim.

Martin McGuinness launched the Upper Bann election campaign for Sinn Féin in Banbridge and said “Catherine Seeley and John O’Dowd together in the Assembly will be a formidable force for the betterment of all”.


Upper Bann factfile

How the constituency compares

2.9%

Unemployment claimants
Level: medium. Rank: 9 of 18

5.9%

Levels of poor health
Level: high. Rank: 6 of 18

Religion


Sinn Féin thought they would gain a second seat in Upper Bann in 2011 through Johnny McGibbon, who won 4,879 votes. But Ms Kelly survived by 340 votes, surviving thanks to transfers from Alliance.

Sinn Féin will be keen to make the gain this time around.

The main towns in Upper Bann – the location for some of the worst violence during the conflict in the North – are Craigavon, Lurgan, and Portadown. There is a strong manufacturing sector in the constituency and its tourist attractions include Lough Neagh and Oxford Island Nature Reserve.

UUP health spokeswoman Ms Dobson has maintained a high profile at the Assembly through her work campaigning for a soft option organ donor system so could potentially see an increase in her vote.

Outgoing UUP MLA Mr Gardiner has retired from the Assembly and standing with Ms Dobson this time are Doug Beattie, a former Royal Irish Regiment captain and a winner of the British Military Cross, and Kyle Savage, son of the late George Savage who served as a UUP Upper Bann MLA for two terms. The UUP is in a good position to hold its two seats.

Harry Hamilton, a one time UUP candidate and well known Freddie Mercury impersonator, known as Flash Harry, is standing for the Alliance Party, but is unlikely to take a seat.

The departure of Ms Kelly would be a big blow for new SDLP leader Colum Eastwood as he seeks to reverse, or at least halt, the decline his party has suffered since the Good Friday Agreement.

While Sinn Féin has been growing in popularity with nationalist voters in the North, the SDLP has suffered electorally, so Mr Eastwood will be hoping in Upper Bann it’s not the case, as Flash Harry might sing, of, Another one bites the dust, in political terms.

Prediction

Ms Kelly of the SDLP, will battle to the bitter end, but she is up against it. Ms Seeley is widely expected to take her seat which would give Sinn Féin two MLAs in the constituency.

The result could be:

DUP (2); UUP (2); Sinn Féin (2).

Candidates
Sydney Anderson (DUP)
Doug Beattie (UUP)
Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP)
Roy Ferguson (TUV)
Harry Hamilton (Alliance)
Emma Hutchinson (NI Lab Rep)
David Jones (Ukip)
Dolores Kelly (SDLP)
Martin Kelly (Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol)
Simon Lee (Greens)
Carla Lockhart (DUP)
Sophie Long (PUP)
Stephen McCarroll (Ind)
Ian Keith Nickels (Conservatives)
John O’Dowd (Sinn Féin)
Kyle Savage (UUP)
Catherine Seeley (Sinn Féin)