The power of numbers 2: Battleground Belfast

The 2005 Westminster and Local Government results indicate a fight in each of Belfast’s constituency’s with some prominent names under threat.In North Belfast the fight will be on the Unionist side. The Westminster figures have the DUP gaining 3 seats but Local Government figures have the UUP’s Fred Cobain holding on. The factors that will determine it will be the DUP’s vote management, where the 1000-1200 PUP votes go (or if they run) and can the UUP muster a strong constituency campaign. The nationalist split will stay the same, 2 SF and 1 SDLP. With such clear margins between the SDLP and SF, it would be highly unlikely that if an anti-agreement republican candidate ran that it would impact upon this.

In 2005, West Belfast was a story of continuing SF and DUP growth and decline of the SDLP. The Westminster figures have the DUP losing out but Local Government has them holding the seat. The pull of the Adams name and trying to get a five way split is a difficult as vote management can get. The UUP’s announcement that they will fight all 18 constituencies will help the DUP’s cause of holding the seat. The UUP is no threat to their dominant position and should get out a few hundred core UUP voters who would have stayed at home. Also there has been Unionist underpolling in the constituency so the DUP have will have to ensure voter mobilisation. IF the SDLP decline continues in West then it could be the SDLP seat under threat. With such tight margins, the intervention of an anti-agreement republican candidate would likely have an effect.

In South Belfast, the big battle will be between Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey and Alliance’s Anna Lo. The Westminster result points to a SF win but Local Government result to a Alliance gain. The 2001 results had the same divided opinion on SF and Alliance’s prospects but a year as Lord Mayor and a strong consituency campaign delivered the seat for Maskey. The Alliance vote is concentrated at either end of the constituency and they have struggled to find a candidate that can appeal to both pockets so choosing a fresh face and non councillor was a sensible move. The two SDLP seats are safe. The unknown is will McDonnell run and how will that effect the split of the nationalist vote? On the Unionist side, both indicators have the UUP losing a seat to the DUP, based on past results the weaker of the two sitting UUP MLAs is the cerebal Esmond Birnie. The curious decision to run three UUP candidates when they have less than two quotas will not assist the UUP’s cause of holding onto the second seat.

In East Belfast, it looks like the PUP’s David Ervine is facing a difficult fight with both the Westminster and Local Government results pointing to a DUP gain at the PUP’s expense. However, Ervine has always been able to attract a vote beyond the PUP’s and DUP vote mismanagement worked in his favour in 2003. Therefore, the DUP will have to manage its vote properly to ensure the gain. An interesting note is that former DUP Councillor Harry Toan has attended anti-St Andrews meetings, will he emerge as an anti-agreement candidate? The UUP and Alliance seats appear safe.

IMPORTANT NOTES: Seats were assigned to parties strictly on the basis of who was closest to a quota. No assignment was made on the basis of possible/likely transfers nor has any projection of existing trends been extrapolated (ie DUP vote grew X% between 2003 and 2005 but if that continues their likely vote be). Westminster results tend to show a party’s maximum potential vote in a constituency while Local Government shows the core vote. When the two agree it seems the highly likely result and were they disagree it highlights were a party should target a constituency for extra effort. In individual constituencies the perceived geographcal base and number of candidates a party chooses and the vote management system adopted can have an effect on the final result. Examples of how this can impact are – the choice of two Ballymena UUP candidates in North contributed to their loss of a seat, vote mismanagement in West and East Belfast cost SF and the DUP a seat respectively. It is possible to confound both indicators as David Ford did in South Antrim in 2003.

  • Nationalist

    Once again the DUP and the UUP will be fighting the campaign on an issue that is not before the people, that of a United Ireland with both stating the union is safer in their respective hands.

    On the Unionist side the only “Working class perty” is the PUP but because the issue put the Protestant people is one of doomsday they have been squeezed out, especially in North Belfast. Why is that the Potestant working class people always fall into the trap of voting for Ultra right wing conservatives?

  • Glen Taisie

    Of course Anti Agreement republican cnadidates could make a difference. Davy Hyland, Oliver Hughes are capable of winning seats.

  • Maitiú Ó Garmaile

    That’s a very good point. Will be interesting to see if Sinn Féin can get the five in the West and if the DUP can get 3 in North. SDLP and UUP seats are very much under threat and the PUP will pick up the just the one with a lot of luck.

  • crataegus

    The DUP have never managed their vote effectively and the major players are looking to be Paisley’s heir and a big vote seems to do wonders in that camp. I think Cobain will hold.

    No change West Belfast. Ervine will lose in East and Alliance should be safe but I wouldn’t feel over confident. South Belfast is the intriguing one. Alliance need to create the impression that they can take Alex’s seat if they do that SF lose one.There are quite a few who would like to dent that party’s smugness.

    24 seats and perhaps 2 changes. This election needs something to liven it up.

  • heck

    Fair deal

    possibly the wrong place to ask but any chance of starting a thread on predictions for 2007. You guys, on the ground, have more insight that me.

    Last year ingram made the prediction that SF would sell out on policing and was correct. (and has been a pain in the ass since).

    Has anyone any major predictions.

    Paisley succession?
    brown changing British policy on Nor Iron?
    Adams getting forced out of the SF leadership?
    resurgence of the SDLP?
    Dissident republicans get their act together and become an opposition to SF?
    More revelations on collusion?

  • abucs


    if the anti-PSNI republicans become a force, how do you see the inter republican transfers holding up ?

  • Cynic

    If many of these predictions hold true it will be interesting in the new Assembly. A bit more fragmentation on both sides would be good for politics generally.

    Of course, if the DUP and SF think they are likley to lose too much there won’t be a deal and hence we will never see what might have happened!

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Hardly SF trying to shut anyone up as the other paady fox was nearly as hysterically anti SF as you.
    The reason for asking is that I am willing to place a wager with you or whichever paddy fox you are. In F&Sth Tyrone, Mid Ulster and West Tyrone SF came out with 7 Assembly seats last time out. I will bet you any amount you like SF will come out of any subsequent Assembly elections with at least 7 seats from these constituencies.
    You up for it?

  • fair_deal


    “The DUP have never managed their vote effectively”

    This would once have been very true but at the last election they did adopt successful vote management in a number of areas. For example in East Antrim, Strangford and North Down they managed their vote to maximum benefit. They should learn the lessons from these constituencies. If the DUP did so and it paid off they could even reach as high as 40 in seat terms

  • wake up

    You must relise that these are some serious hitters who carry clout or do the provos really think that things are going to be smoothed over in the run up to the elects.

    Finally may I send out a piece of advice to the provos – push the people at your pearl and you will end up red faced AGAIN!

    I hate to break it to you but these people have let the Provos run over them and push them around for the better part of a decade, what makes you think they are actually going to take a unifed, strong stand against the Provos now? They have had ample opportunity to do so over the years and have instead chosen to keep their heads in the sand, turn a blind eye, and back the Provos regardless.

    If you think now is going to be radically different, you are dreaming and/or overestimating the stomach for resistance. It is not there.

  • maura

    ‘Pomeroy/Carrickmore area the Shinners will loose.’

    Paddy Fox, Pomeroy and Carrickmore are not even in the same constituency!!!

    And there are a few ‘hardliners’ in the area Paddy, but for the most part what I see are people, staunch Republicans, who have been there for the long haul, who realise this is a huge gamble that they are willing to make. I am not denying that there are rumbles of discontent, especially up around Galbally, but I think it will be alright.

  • maura

    ‘I hate to break it to you but these people have let the Provos run over them and push them around for the better part of a decade, what makes you think they are actually going to take a unifed, strong stand against the Provos now? They have had ample opportunity to do so over the years and have instead chosen to keep their heads in the sand, turn a blind eye, and back the Provos regardless. ‘

    This could not be further from the truth.
    In fact, you are guilty of underestimating the political savvy of hundreds of thousands of Irish Republicans, who have been there through all the years, struggling and suffering through the whole sorry thing. Do you really believe the hundreds of thousands of us who have put our faith in SF strategy, in the leadership of our struggle, are that stupid and contemptuos?
    That you think this is more a reflection on you than it is on Sinn Fein who have consulted with Republicans all over Ireland before taking one step!
    I can not believe that a “Republican’ would hold his fellow republican members with such contempt. What do you say to a mother in Loughmacrory who lost two sons who supports SF? Do you think she has given it thought? What do you say to the mother up in Galbally who has lost children to death and prison- who supports the leadership of SF?
    What a sad day when ‘republican’s’ come out in such contempt for those who paid the umtinate sacrifices over the years.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    there is no point in bringing logic and the truth into the debate. To some you and the hundreds of thousands of others are robots with no political savvy who is led around by the nose by some political elite who do all the thinking for you. Point out the ongoing consultation and you are accused of lying.

    To question their own motives or analysis simply leads to the charge of informer etc etc. No, there are a cadre of pure bloods out there who spout rhetoric but shy away from putting forward any political analysis other than keeping the status quo and waiting for the British to kop on to themselves and clear out.

  • maura

    ‘ No, there are a cadre of pure bloods out there who spout rhetoric but shy away from putting forward any political analysis other than keeping the status quo and waiting for the British to kop on to themselves and clear out. ‘

    Pat, sadly this is true. In the past few months I have challenged our fellow Republicans, on the other side of this debate, to provide me with some answers, which as a genuine democrat, I am willing to listen to! Not once has the challenge been answered by anything other than Adams Bashing, Mc Guiness /informer allegations etc.
    While I sincerely respect the right to disagree with the direction of any political movement- I would prefer it to be on grounds other than the slabberings of frustrated ex FRU members et al.
    Give me your argument- I will listen and discuss- I repeat that invitation ot Paddy Fox, or anyone else.
    To have the whole republican family told that we are sheep, heads buried whereever is not the answer. Hundreds of thousands of Republicans have and will continue to support SF and their strategy. While many including myself are not completely at ease with some/many of the choices we have had to make as republicans, it is, I think the long term people like myself are looking to, rather than short term gratification.
    My summary of the PSNI debate- if this step is ok for hundreds of families whose sons and daughters are buried ( rather than heads buried in the sand) – then its alright with me Pat! And for anyone to dismiss those people ( as stupid or otherwise) and shun them because they have chosen to stand with SF and their decisions, is beyond comprehension for me.
    It is all very well to say well, the dead volunteer would never have voted for this= cause none of us will ever know that. But if their families say its alright- well then its alright.

  • maura

    Well done moderators.
    Happy New Year!

  • Mick Fealty


    Someone has been using the name ‘paddy fox’ to push their own messages under someone else’s name. Impersonation of others is an automatic red card offence. This is the second time they have been caught doing it, having already been banned once under another IP address.

    The real individual concerned does not post on Slugger and only appeared the once that Pat has referred to to tell others that the posts being made in his name were not his. With Paddy’s permission the screen name has now been banned so it may be safely inferred that anyone appearing under that name is simply trying to repeat ‘the trick’.

    I would appreciate the help of our readers in alerting either myself or one of the other bloggers of this or or any other cases of impersonation. Or indeed any gratuitous man playing.

    In the meantime, to avoid confusion I have removed a number of ancillary posts.

  • sameoldsameold

    Personation, eh. The SDLP election campaign on Slugger’s in full flow as before? Exactly the same tactic as they used before?

  • Mick Fealty

    Actually sameoldsameold, you are probably one of the most prolific sock puppets on Slugger. Whilst I would never accuse you of having stolen someone else’s identity, I have trouble understanding why you have to change your assumed identity quite so often.

    Glasshouses and stones?

  • Percival

    My Predictions for Belfast:

    Belfast East:

    3 DUP
    1 UUP
    1 PUP
    1 Alliance

    Belfast West

    No Change

    Belfast North

    3 DUP
    2 SF
    1 SDLP

    Belfast South

    2 DUP
    2 SDLP
    1 Alliance
    1 UUP

    Gains in Belfast for the DUP and Alliance. A continuation of the UUP’s slow retreat from the capital as the DUP eat further into middle-class support and Alliance wins back its people who supported the UUP last time out to help His Purpleness.

    PS. In relation to East Belfast I haven’t yet made up my mind who’s more at risk Copeland or Ervine.

    PPS. DUP transfers fiascoes will not happen again.

  • borden

    Don’t discount DUP transfer madness!! Anr to be honest I can’t really see mAskey losing in S Belfast either. There could be a few minor sub plots – eg in N Belfast will be interested to see how PSFs vote holds up and also generally if the UUP take an absolute battering -which I unfortunately think they will. A final point – will the good Doctor run again for S Belfast or wili it be a Carmel Hanna/ Pat mcCarthy ticket??

  • Percival


    Alasdair McDonell is running for Stormont.

  • Percival

    PS. And I expect McGimpsey/Stoker/Birnie to be ripping the back out of each other, splitting the UUP vote every-which way and the same to happen on the Stoop side of things also.

  • Yes, the South Belfast UUP is in quite a state. But that was predictable. McGimpsey, who might in a parallel universe have ended up party leader after the 2005 debacle, will probably get the 1 UUP seat that’s now left here. Birnie will very likely lose out to the DUP.

    As for the Stoops, I imagine the IMC will have to get involved when the supporters of McDonnell and Hanna get stuck into each other again.

    Meanwhile Jimmy Spratt may well top the poll for the DUP and make himself firm favourite to boot McDonnell out of Westminster in due course. No wonder the good doctor could do with another dual mandate.

  • borden

    Anyone fancy a flutter on Hanna topping the poll in S Belfast??

  • Bruce101

    I would not rule out a surprise in East Belfast with the UUP dropping to one seat if they run Copeland. This would help Ervine to hold his seat. There’s hardly any difference between those two parties anyway. Alliance seat secure and DUP should safely get three. Lord Brown is likely to be the third DUP candidate.

    Dodds will take three in North at expense of the UUP SF – 2 SDLP – 1.

    West will be a real test for SF. They have a sure 4 seats and the SDLP should hold one. DD can retain her seat for the DUP probably helped by republican disaffection on policing.

    South Belfast will be 2 DUP and 1 UUP SDLP can hold 2 and SF will hold off Alliance.