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Assembly Election 2017: West Tyrone

Omagh on the Strule River in the Contituency of West Tyrone. Picture by Ann McManus.
Gareth McKeown

IN a constituency of fine-margins there is set to be at least one major political casualty in West Tyrone on March 2.

The mirror-image results of 2016 and 2011 will not be repeated this time around as a reduced number of seats and higher quota are expected to lead to another late finish at the Omagh Leisure Centre.

For successive elections three Sinn Féin candidates have been returned, with the remainder split between the DUP, UUP and SDLP. Six does not go into five though and it is just a question of who takes the fall.

A total of 15 candidates, including four Independents, will battle it out for election in West Tyrone - the joint highest in the north, yet less than half harbour realistic hopes of making the regular commute up Stormont hill.

The major name missing from the ballot is UUP stalwart Ross Hussey.

The veteran Omagh politician retired last month on medical grounds and his replacement, 24 year-old Alicia Clarke faces the unenviable task of retaining his seat at her first time of asking.

In recognition of the change in electoral make-up both Sinn Féin and the DUP are standing only their incumbents, with all previously successful candidates bar Hussey hoping for a swift re-election.

The DUP's Thomas Buchanan looks the safest unionist bet to retain his seat defending a surplus quota, even in the face of an expected RHI backlash and he should be joined by at least two Sinn Féin candidates, Barry McElduff and Michaela Boyle polling strongest last time out.

In the narrowest finish of the 2016 election Declan McAleer scraped past running-mate Grace McDermott and he could again face a nail-biting battle with the SDLP's Daniel McCrossan and the aforementioned Alicia Clarke for the final two seats.

Of the remainder to throw their hats into the ring former Sinn Féin councillor, now Independent, Sorcha McAnespie could present the greatest challenge to the established order, while the TUV will bank upon the experience of former DUP councillor Charlie Chittick to poll strongly in the party's first appearance in the constituency.

For the rest, who include Alliance, Greens and the pro-cannabis Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance (CISTA) their transfers could yet prove decisive, while for curiosity value alone it will be intriguing to see if Independent Susan Anne White's controversial support for recriminalising homosexuality and making adultery illegal gain sway with the electorate.

CANDIDATES

Michaela Boyle (SF)

Barry Brown (CISTA)

Thomas Buchanan (DUP)

Charlie Chittick (TUV)

Alicia Clarke (UUP)

Stephen Donnelly (All)

Corey French (Ind)

Roger Lomas (Con)

Declan McAleer (SF)

Sorcha McAnespy (Ind)

Ciaran McClean (Green)

Daniel McCrossan (SDLP)

Barry McElduff (SF)

Roisin McMackin (Ind)

Susan-Anne White (Ind)

2016 share of first preference vote

SF 42%

DUP 22%

UUP 11.4%

SDLP 11%

Ind 9%

Others 4.6%

Seats won in 2016

SF 3

SDLP 1

DUP 1

UUP 1

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