The power of numbers 5: Battleground Armagh and South Down

The mathematical tour of constituencies wanders through Upper Bann, South Down and Newry and Armagh. The numbers present a pretty dull picture but events make Newry and Armagh the one to watch.In Upper Bann, both the Westminster and Local Government results point to no change – 2 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 SF and 1 SDLP. The UUP % of the vote was higher in LG (37%) than Westminster (34%) so the numbers don’t show a ‘Trimble’ factor in the UUP vote in the constituency. The DUP has over two quotas so will most likely run three and Westminster has them 0.14 of a quota behind the UUP, they will be hoping that Simpson’s tenure as MP will have pushed them ahead (although next time out would seem more likely). As with South Antrim if when the results hit and it looks like the DUP will get 3 from this constituency they will be heading for the dream ’40’.

In South Down the Westminster results show 3 SDLP, 2 SF and 1 DUP while local government has it as no change 2 SDLP, 2 SF, 1 DUP, 1 UUP. In Westminster a noticeable chunk of UUP voters (approximately 1000) backed McGrady in the mistaken belief Ruane was threatening to take the seat. The numbers say Nesbitt’s standing down should not hurt the UUP. The UUP’s Local Government performace was much stronger in south Down pipping the DUP while Nesbitt lost votes to McGrady and a further 1600 to Jim Wells of the DUP. However the lack of an obvious replacement for Nesbitt probably means the loss of Peter Bowles is a source of regret.

In Newry and Armagh, Westminster and Local Government agree on no change – 3 SF, 1 SDLP, 1 DUP, 1 UUP. In the local government results the SDLP is only 0.02 of a quota behind Sinn Fein and why they are targetting the constituency. An intervention by ousted SF MLA Davy Hyland would take it from an outside chance to a real fight. On the Unionist side Danny Kennedy is safe but the question is what happens to the DUP seat. There are potentially three vying for that seat and vote – an official DUP candidate, Paul Berry and Willie Frazer. Splitting a quota and a bit three ways and if transfers don’t work out the SDLP could get their second seat at Unionism’s expense, something for all three to weigh up before they throw their hats in the ring.

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.

  • Newry Voter

    The Newry and Armagh seat is very interesting. With Sinn Féin in disarray and the team of the excellent Dominic Bradley and the up and coming Cllr Sharon Haughey (covering Newry and Armagh respectively) the SDLP are in a good position to take an extra MLA this time out.

  • The SDLP will win two seats in Newry and Armagh.

  • Ca Va

    Would Fair Deal like to give a prediction on South Belfast in the forthcoming elections?

  • fair_deal

    Ca va

    Already did


  • dalek

    South Down:

    To give an opinion on Catriona Ruane. I have met her and have seen her in company and she appears to be a very able and hard working politician and quite an affable person. She can generally be found commenting on many diverse local issues in the Newry papers every week without fail, gets very involved in local concerns and isn’t embarassed to let all and sundry know about her prowess at tennis!!

    However her under-performance at election time stems from one thing and one thing only. A dislike of parachute candidates and in particular the way in which this ladies particular parachute landed.

    It takes a long time for “Blow-ins” to lose the label!

    Anyway for what it’s worth I won’t be voting for her!!!!!

    Newry & Armagh

    It would be really interesting if Davy Hyland stood as an independent as he has a very large personal vote in Newry contrary to what some posters have implied. His limitation is that the personal vote is solely Newry City based rather than being spread across the constituency. He will I suppose do the Maths!

  • fair_deal


    If what you say is true about a base in Newry it is a good start. Hyland would have a potential market among disenchanted SF voters (up to 1 in 5 according to the Hearts and Minds poll). In Armagh john nixon, a hard-line republican, has a pretty consistent 600 votes so Hyland could seek an endorsement and hope for the votes too.

  • Crow

    Speaking of the numbers, it is interesting to compare the bloc votes (i.e. Un, Nat) with the Community Background Census results. They usually align pretty much as you would expect but Upper Bann stands out. The 2001 Census shows a Catholic Community Background of 42.93% but in the Westminster elections of that year the combined nationalist vote was only 36%; a differntial of nearly 7%. Compare this with North Belfast who had 44.93% Cath Comm Background and a 46.2% nat vote. I have to admit I have not studied the age profiles which could very well be the answer. I would be interested to hear any hypothesis.

  • Chris Donnelly

    the team of the excellent Dominic Bradley and the up and coming Cllr Sharon Haughey


    That one come straight from Press Office, I take it???

    Next I suppose we’ll be reading that line from one of those ‘anonymous’ letter writers that fill the Irish News letters page in the run up to every election.

    As I’ve stated before, the SDLP will come away from this election with the same solitary seat in this constituency as they go into it with.

    Unionists will fear a three/ four-way split letting the second stoop candidate through, but, again, like their nationalist counterparts, they will have the strategic sense to continue on down the preferences to ensure they hold the two seats- for now.

    Hyland will run, but he’ll get caught between appealing to dissidents and a formerly loyal personal vote, which will be turned off him once he attempts to woo a dissident vote (as this morning’s Nolan programme indicated.)

    Don’t expect too many dissidents to rally to his cause either: he was a willing supporter of the GFA and every other development up until the very recent past, so in their eyes his complaints will smack more of thwarted personal ambition than republican principle.

    In any case, I’d expect to see his transfers to play the final part in bringing in a third Sinn Fein candidate.

    I’ve no doubt he’s hurting from the snub delivered by the party locally, but voters will see the logic in transferring to the remaining republican (ie Sinn Fein) candidates regardless.

    I’d expect to see Sinn Fein pushing hard to take the SDLP’s solitary seat in Upper Bann this time, as the latter’s organisation has gone into freefall since the fateful ‘Stalingrad’ strategy took Rodgers away in 2001.

  • strictlyimpartial

    In fairness Chris, the SDLP have selected two candidates and with Sinn Fein vs Hyland with the bad feeling associated as well as the DUP mess in that constituency it seems quite likely the SDLP could scoop an extra MLA there.

    I am certainly not a nationalist let along an SDLP supporter but they genuinely could end up doing well in this election. They are not going to grab multiple seats off Sinn Fein by any stretch of the imagination but they are playing it very cannily and could end up with at least two new MLAs in addition to their existing one if it all goes as it would seem to in both Newry and Armagh and Strangford.

    Hats off to them, they are playing it cleverly, UUP take note!

  • Mark

    Very interesting that Fair-Deal and other Unionists seem to be offering electoral advice to an unconfirmed candidate that would be running on an anti-policing ticket.

    The enemy of my enemy……….

    Anyone but SF? Even those who unlikely Davy found their rejectionist boots before being deselected by their comrades?

    I’d be interested in Davy’s manefesto, if he runs – “I agree with SF on everything but policing and will therefore vote with them on every issue but this – vote Hyland”

  • daisy

    “To give an opinion on Catriona Ruane. I have met her and have seen her in company and she appears to be a very able and hard working politician and quite an affable person. She can generally be found commenting on many diverse local issues in the Newry papers every week without fail, gets very involved in local concerns and isn’t embarassed to let all and sundry know about her prowess at tennis!! ”

    Like many of the statements that appear in the Newry Reporter/Democrat attributed to Catrina Ruane, the above could well have been written by the SF Press office. Time for a reality check.

    I have tried to meet her on no less than four occasions and failed. Whilst not wishing to discuss private business with the office note taker but, nonetheless, being prepared to wait, it is very difficult to get to see her. She might be Stormount. She might be out of the country or (the best one!) she might be Westminister. But to be fair, someone in her office will get back to you. It is a bit rich to hear her talking about anything and everything, being pushed and profiled, from tennis to telephone masts, Catrina has a statement! Just don’t expect to see her, unless of course there’s an election approaching and then it all changes. Once again, to be fair, that’s the case with most politicians.

    Outside of Sinn Fein, CR is not liked and, rumor has, even some inside don’t like her! CR is good at “being seen” at all the right places but she’s not there on the ground. She does her work in front of the TV camera but never behind the scenes. I have voted twice and each time I have voted for Sinn Fein but next time I will be voting for the SDLP as they helped me twice in the past year with a very sensitive issue that was never going to be in the papers! I didn’t really get in to politics until this year but I’ve certainly had my eyes opened! Sinn Fein are liked at one level but feared at another. Catrina Ruane is not really liked at all. This election will be interesting for Nationalists in South Down as Sinn Fein have a good vote but only their own vote (no transfers) and, unless they need them, people don’t see the SDLP but trust them. The SDLP afe the safe option as it were!

    Roll on the March election – it looks like it could be fun to watch all the politicians begging for our votes, again!

  • Dalek-

    “She can generally be found commenting on many diverse local issues in the Newry papers every week without fail.”

    Yeah, by writing copious letters to their editors which just show her up as having little else to do with her time and being a tad sore about any form of criticism directed at her 😉

  • Chris Donnelly

    Yeah, by writing copious letters to their editors which just show her up as having little else to do with her time..

    Declan O’Loan and John Dallat must be blushing- don’t they hold the joint record for number of letters to the Irish News????

  • Oh, and as regards Davy Hyland- my personal opinion would be that he would benefit more running on a ticket opposing SF’s general dictatorial modus operandi, rather than running on an anti-policing ticket per se. He has the SF Newry vote pretty much tied up, and an anti-Connolly House stance could resonate among some republicans in south Armagh who have traditionally held similar views (cross-reference with the breaking of the mid-’70s ceasefire by said faction in order to assassinate a bus load of innocent Protestant workmen at Kingsmills).

  • Sammy Morse

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

    I’d guess Spratt will and it will leave the DUP needing a few new pairs of underpants before they finally take the second seat.

  • Crossmaglen voter

    Isn’t it true that Ms Ruane buses her child across the border from her home in Carlingford to Newry so that that she can be educated in a Newry Grammar School? I am reliably informed that she does.

    Isn’t Sinn Fein policy to abolish Grammar School? They say that they perpetuate educational apartheid.

    Isn’t this a case of rank hypocrisy?


    “Any one fancy a flutter on Hanna topping the poll in S Belfast”

    Is Hanna part of the McDonnell sdlp faction in SB ??

  • Crataegus

    El Matador

    Davy Hyland- my personal opinion would be that he would benefit more running on a ticket opposing SF’s general dictatorial modus operandi

    I agree, there is a fair amount of disquiet in the ranks which SF will of course deny! Going on policing would be a narrow agenda and a big mistake.

    Was looking at the Council election results for South Down, from N. Whyte below

    SDLP 16,290.1 (34.5%)
    Sinn Fein 11,396.2 (24.1%)
    UUP 7,417.5 (15.7%)
    DUP 7,231.8 (15.3%)
    Green 1,650.8 (3.5%)
    Alliance 535.2 (1.1%)
    WP 97 (0.2%)
    Independents 2,622 (5.6%)

    There is a safe Unionist and DUP seat with a few percent surplus. The SDLP have just under 2.5 quotas.
    SF are sitting with about 1.7 quotas but have 2 seats on a massive increase last time round but this went down in the council election.

    What really surprised me was vote for independents Greens and Alliance. It is about .7 of a quota.

    If there is trouble in the SF ranks in Newry are they likely to haemorrhage any votes? If a dissident were to stand or some decide to vote elsewhere or stay at home they could have a candidate left standing with say .5 of a quota. Also would the dissidents vote for someone else say the Green? After all they seem (clear as mud) to be an all Ireland Party. I tried to find who the Green Candidate was but as with N Down to no avail. They have two councillors in South Down and one of them would seem to be well positioned to mop up any disquiet in SF ranks. The Greens, if they have any organisation at all could increase their vote substantially as there is no Woman’s Coalition this time round and Alliance are out of it here. It is conceivable that with a good campaign they could be in with over half a quota. In the transfer game they will gain from Unionists and if it comes to it the SDLP. The last seat could well go to someone with well below a quota. Just a thought and worth reconsideration when we see who the candidates actually are.

    My instinct says no change, but if the trouble in the ranks is real Greens get a good result. Last seat could be between them, SF and the SDLP. I fancy an SDLP gain.

  • Miss Fitz

    They obviously know it too, and are looking to boost as much support as possible. It has been extraordinary in the past few days how many people have told me that’s where their vote is migrating too. I suppose that at least they stand for something positive.

  • Crataegus

    Miss Fitz

    Thanks, thats very interesting.

    Solid information about their candidates just doesn’t seem to exist? I would imagine they will field their councillors in N. Down and South Down but which and who in South Belfast? Any female candidates, are they running token candidates anywhere else, say Strangford? It could impact on the last seat there. Also I tried previously to unwind their exact relationship with the South and Britain, but as I say clear as mud.

    Currently relaying from elsewhere and difficult to keep abreast from this distance.

  • Mark

    This Green stuff is political niavity they had a chance in North Down on the back of Brian Wilson’s (former APNI, former Ind, now Green) personal vote. Now Lady Sylvia is running they won’t even get that seat – he will be the candidate.

    They got 799 votes at the last Assembly election in South Down.

    Dream on. No chance in hell of a Green MLA.

    If you vote for them consider how you transfer or it’ll just be a wasted vote.

  • Crataegus


    I agree Greens are unlikely to get in in S Down but their vote seems to be rising in the council election it went up from 799 to 1650. That is over 3 times the Alliance vote. If they run a good campaign they could double their vote and would be sitting on a very respectable figure.

    With regards North Down I am in Australia at the moment and thought Sylvia had decided not to run but if she is I could see her having a greater impact on the Alliance vote than the Green Vote. In theory there are two non Unionist seats, and I would like to see both get in but anything could happen.

  • Sean Og

    Catriona Ruane is never seen on the ground in South Down. She only sees her constituents when flying over them or from across the lough in Carlingford and speaks to them through press releases from Connolly House.
    She lost a lot of support in Downpatrick when she called for a Travellers site to be built near the Flying Horse even though there are no Travellers in the area. Jim Wells was in the paper the next week asking her to campaign for a site in Carlingford rather than in Down were it isn’t needed. Most Nationalist I spoke to agreed with Wells big time!
    Travellers site are required and it is SF policy to provide them but she has no idea how her statements go down on the ground because she isn’t on the ground.

  • Yokel

    God, some people really do have it in for the Ruane, yet she gets elected.

  • miss fitz

    Should that not be: got elected? I feel she took the seat first time round on a kind of unconditional support as she was very high profile at the time as a result of the Columbia 3. The outgoing MLA was her campaign manager (Mick Murphy).

    Next time round, she’s going to be judged on her performance.

  • fair_deal


    The threads have offered advice to every party, no deselection here.

  • Chris Donnelly


    You’ll find it’s an SDLP tactic which has been used time and time again in the South Down constituency.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the young stoopers energetically buy into candidate demonisation and anonymous spinning during election campaigns, regardless of all the evidence which overwhelmingly points to the utter futility of the exercises.

    Ahh well, better get used to it. Election time beckons…

  • Sean Og

    Chris – I never voted SDLP in my life. Voted SF since Ciril Toman in the early 80s. Catroina’s performance on the ground has been very poor since she was elected. She spends no time in the are and local voters know that. You can ignore that if you want but speak to voters in South Down before you do.
    She will still get elected but well behind Down Council Chairman Willie Clarke and will be fighting O’Neill for the last seat.

  • Crataegus

    It used to be said if you dressed a goat in a union jack and paraded it up the Shankill they would vote for it.

    If people are poor representatives, and many of them are, why on earth do people vote for them? As a developer I meet my fair share of councillors and MLAs and have fair opportunity to assess their ability. Often they are against me, but I have to admit that people like Sammy Wilson and David Rodway do represent their constituents quite well. (I don’t vote DUP) Ken Robinson in Newtownabbey is excellent. Burns in Crumlin very active on planning issues as is Brian Wilson and there are many others who put in a good show. Fair people who make good points and you can have an intelligent discourse with them.

    I keep being told that some people are great workers on the ground representing their constituents, but this doesn’t tally with experience. I admit that some of the subjects are complex and require special knowledge, and I would be first to say perhaps my experience is unrepresentative, but some are way below power, some are embarrassingly bad. The only reason why they are regarded as good is because the people they are representing have inadequate knowledge on the subject to judge the correctness of what they are being told. Blind leading the blind. Often it is ordinary working class people looking for a bit of support and the standard of resource they receive from some elected representatives is at times poor. This really annoys me for these are the people that need help most.

    Is being useless less important than being a Republican or a Unionist? Or is it that people just don’t know how bad they are?

    If someone though potentially very capable is not around, and you can’t contact them, don’t vote for then it is that simple. Why not vote outside the box, there is usually enough to choose from.

  • Bruce101

    DUP will have little difficulty in winning a seat in Newry and Armagh. I am told an internal DUP opinion poll shows Berry will have a very low vote. The DUP will field Irwin who will get as good a vote as Kennedy. Willie Fraser couldn’t save his deposit. He is a joke locally.

  • borden

    A second unionist seat is at jeopardy. If the vote is split four ways it could let in Haughey of Armagh. The stoops have played it well fielding a geographical and gender balanced ticket.

  • Sean Og

    Splitters from the DUP don’t have a good record in subsequent elections. Gardiner Kane and Roger Hutchinson both sank without trace at the last election. I expect Paul Berry to do the same especially given the way in which he left the party.
    I can’t see Davy Hyland winning a seat if he stands and word on the street is that he will. At the last Assembly Election Davy got nearly 6,000 1st preferences. This time I reckon it will be less that 2,000 and there is no garrantee that his votes will transfer to SF. I suspect that most republicans voting for an Independent Republican are doing so to hurt SF leadership. They know that losing seats will relly hurt so are unlikely to transfer to SF & help elect SF MLAs. I reckon the majority of Davy’s votes won’t transfer.
    There’s 5 safe seats 2 SF, 1 DUP, 1 UUP 1 SDLP. The last seat will be between Haughey of SDLP & one of the Sinn Fein candidates. In 2003 Pat O’Rawe beat the stoops by a few hundred but it would have been closer if Danny Kennedy’s surplus had been distributed. I expect it to be even closer this time. Davy’s intervention (or lack of) may hold the key.

  • Sammy Morse

    A second unionist seat is at jeopardy. If the vote is split four ways it could let in Haughey of Armagh.

    The Unionist vote here is a solid 2.1-2.3 Quotas, even when there’s clear evidence of tactical voting for the SDLP (e.g Westminster 2001). Splits don’t matter in an STV election as long as people transfer down the ticket. I’m starting to believe some of the Shinner ranting about dubious stuff coming out of the SDLP press office in this neck of the woods…

    Steady demograpghic change may well be eroding the Unionists’ second seat here but 2007 seems much too soon for the chickens to come home to roost and neither their splits nor the SDLP’s “super dooper stooper balanced ticket” will change that.

  • Sean og

    “neither their splits nor the SDLP’s “super dooper stooper balanced ticket” will change that.”
    LOL! But it is a dream team, gender balanced and geographically balanced! The excellent Dominic Bradley and the up and coming Ms Haughey may be balanced but I can’t see anything other than 2 Unionist seats this time.
    Like I said, last seat will be between Sinn Fein & SDLP. Impossible to call until we see who all of the candidates are.

  • Tkmaxx

    I think Hyland will not have the guts to stand and even if he does – it wont matter much to SF – they must have known that when they deselected him.

  • Crataegus


    If he doesn’t stand he definitely won’t have any impact, if he does who knows?