Assembly Election

Constituency Notebook 2017: East Derry

The Mussenden Temple in East Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

OUTGOING SDLP assembly member Gerry Mullan's refusal to go quietly into the night has blown the East Derry race wide open.

The return of party veteran John Dallat to the electoral fray left most commentators predicting the SDLP would hold the seat after Mullan's de-selection.

That would have left the SDLP remaining on one and Sinn Féin with another.

The DUP would have taken two seats, with justice minister Claire Sugden scrapping for the fifth with the DUP's Adrian McQuillan.

However, Mullan had other ideas and his resignation from the SDLP and decision to run as an independent nationalist is likely to damage his former party.

Whether or not Dallat – normally a huge vote-winner – can overcome that obstacle remains to be seen.

If he fails to hold the seat, it could open a number up of scenarios, depending on whether candidates can stay in the race long enough to benefit from the fall-out.

Should transfers stay within nationalism/republicanism, the smart money would be on Sinn Féin's Cathal Ó hÓisín making a return to the assembly to join party colleague Caoimhe Archibald.

However, PR politics is never that simple and it could result in a three-way dog fight for the fifth seat between Ó hÓisín, Sugden and McQuillan.

Within unionism, the DUP has held a stranglehold on East Derry for a long time.

Former Coleraine mayor Maurice Bradley and veteran Limavady councillor George Robinson would be expected to hold their seats comfortably, despite the challenge of Ulster Unionist William McCandless.

However, East Derry is a largely rural constituency and one where the DUP might well feel the heat of the RHI scandal more than in urban areas.

It also remains to be seen if independent unionist Claire Sugden's high profile as justice minister will translate into more votes at the ballot box.

Also running are the TUV, PUP, Alliance, People Before Profit, Greens and NI Conservatives.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP are reporting that the DUP's treatment of them has been continually raised on the doorsteps, while Brexit has also been an issue.

One SDLP canvasser was told by a fearful voter that they were concerned about prices post-Brexit as the price of butter had already rocketed. As in any election, the bread and butter issues can never be ignored.

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CANDIDATES:

Caoimhe Archibald (SF)

Jordan Armstrong (TUV)

Maurice Bradley (DUP)

Gavin Campbell (PBP)

John Dallat (SDLP)

Anthony Flynn (Green)

David Harding (NI Con)

William McCandless (UUP)

Chris McCaw (All)

Adrian McQuillan (DUP)

Gerry Mullan (Ind Nationalist)

Cathal Ó hÓisín (SF)

George Robinson (DUP)

Claire Sugden (Ind Unionist)

Russell Watton (PUP)

2016 share of first preference vote:

DUP 36.8%

SF 21.8%

Independents 9.7%

SDLP 9.5%

UUP 8.3%

PUP 3.9%

TUV 3.5%

Green 1.3%

UKIP 0.8%

NI Con 0.8%

Seats won in 2016:

DUP 3

SF 1

SDLP 1

Ind Unionist 1

Assembly Election

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