Northern Ireland

Constituency Profile: South Down

Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard will be hoping to stave off any in-roads made by the SDLP or Alliance

Standalone scenes
The Longstone standing stone in Annalong Co Down against a backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Could South Down provide as nail-biting a finish as it did in 2019?

Just 1,620 votes separated the top two candidates in the constituency in the last general election in 2019 with the winning vote share recorded as the smallest of the 650 constituencies across the UK.

The closeness of the vote saw Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard emerge victorious over nearest rival, the SDLP’s Michael Savage.

But both parties saw a shrinkage in support amid Alliance growth.

Hazzard took home a 32% vote share, but it had dropped from just under 40% in 2017, while the SDLP’s share fell by six per cent.

It was in 2017 Sinn Féin gained the constituency for the first time when Hazzard became the republican party’s first MP in the area, unseating Margaret Ritchie during the SDLP’s parliamentary wipe-out at that year’s snap general election.

This year, there are significant changes in parliamentary boundaries in south Down with the electorate dropping from 79,295 to 71,772.

The SDLP will be hoping to make in-roads once again, with Colin McGrath running to try to unseat Mr Hazzard.

With the Alliance vote increasing in the 2019 general election, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP will be focused on ensuring it does not stretch any further.

St John's Point lighthouse in Killough
St John's Point lighthouse in Killough

Last time round it was Patrick Brown who ran for Alliance, and despite never seriously challenging Sinn Féin’s dominance, his party’s share rose by 10.3%.

Recently quitting the party due to “personal reasons”, his MLA successor Andrew McMurray has picked up the baton.

While the DUP’s Glyn Hanna finished third in 2019 with 7,619 votes, it came with a 2.1% decrease in support.

This year his daughter Diane Forsythe is running, previously standing in 2017 when she helped push the DUP vote up by 9.3%.

Prison officer Michael O’Loan will be hoping to build on the UUP increase in the last Westminster election when the vote share rose by 2.7%.

Aontú's Rosemary McGlone is running for the first time, while veteran politician Jim Wells has been selected by the TUV, Hannah Westropp is the Northern Ireland Conservatives candidate and Declan Walsh is running for the Green Party.

While an upset in south Down is unlikely, it will be interesting to see if the SDLP or Alliance can change their vote share and if parliamentary boundary changes will have any impact.

South Down
South Down