Sammy Morse on, Mid Ulster…

There are two main battles here. Within Unionism, the DUP will need to get their vote management right to stand a chance of tipping Billy Armstrong out of his seat. With big vote getter Willie McCrea gone that might be less problematic that it once was. On the Nationalist, the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone looks safe as does Sinn Fein’s three seats. Yet Sammy reckons there have been more ructions within the Republican base than almost anywhere else: the RSF candidate Gerry McLaughlin has a credible chance of sneaking one, if he polls more than 12%.

Mid Ulster has returned MLAs with the same set of partisan affiliations in both Assembly elections – 3 Sinn Féin, 1 SDLP, 1 DUP and 1 UUP. Nicholas Whyte’s count by count figures, show that this was fairly clear cut last time. Two party colleagues, in this case from the SDLP, duked it out for the last seat with considerable leeway for the next most vulnerable incumbent. However, the 2005 elections confirmed the possibility of change here, with the DUP outpolling the UUP by more than 2-to-1 in the Westminster election. On the Republican side, there has been turmoil in some quarters over Sinn Féin’s decision to accept the PSNI, culminating in the resignation of sitting MLA Geraldine Dougan from the party, and revivified dissident Republican activity, particularly in South Derry.

Sinn Fein, he argues, should be safe for the three seats, since the three quotas are there, and the SDLP seems to have stablised at 17-18%. Interestingly though they seem to have declined fishing for a fourth. He identifies a longer term weakness in McGuinness’s Westminster vote, which he notes was down, even though the SDLP vote remained static. It points to a weakness within the Republican base. And the challengers here are Republican Sinn Fein, in the person of Gerry Brendan McLaughlin:

….the real threat to Sinn Féin’s right comes less from East Tyrone than South Derry, where dissidents have been active and not afraid to shout about it, and where SF have lost a councillor and an MLA is short succession. The loss of the former was apparently a matter of local rather than national politics, but losing Geraldine Dougan was a big deal. McGuinness doesn’t have a local base (and doesn’t need to), O’Neill is based in Coalisland in the far South, as politically is Molloy and he actually lives near the Moy, way down on the Armagh border. That leaves the SF ticket a little thin on local roots in Magherafelt district, and indeed in Cookstown district.

Veterans tend to respect their old comrades. While the bright and attractive Michelle O’Neill clearly has her strengths from a Sinn Féin point of view, I just wonder did they perhaps miss a trick by not running a respected ‘war veteran’ from the South Derry area, either as the third candidate, or as a sweeper taking up a fourth spot in the ballot paper?

In any case, Republican Sinn Féin have taken up the dissident mantle here and are running Brendan McLaughlin, a former Hunger Striker from outside Derry City. He too lacks local roots, which might be a disadvantage but he has a strong Republican pedigree. On paper, this was always the best potential pickup for the dissidents – the largest SF vote apart from West Belfast combined with much more dissent on the policing issue than in West Belfast; a tradition of militant republicans going it alone outside the mainstream Republican movement (think Francis Hughes); and quite a bit of sectarian tension. A candidate with a strong local Republican track record, especially one running on a ‘soft no’ platform of opposition both to the PSNI and a return to war, would have really had Sinn Féin on the rack. As it stands, McLaughlin has his work cut out for him but it’s probably the second best chance for a dissident gain after Newry and Armagh. Sinn Féin clearly take him seriously – last time they ran a 4th candidate here as a sweeper, this time it’s a tight three candidate strategy, the sort you operate when you can’t afford to take risks.

On my sums, he needs 12.2% to win against a well-balanced Sinn Féin ticket, but if McGuinness polls a significantly higher vote than the other two, that target could be as low as 11.5%, or even 10.1% against a very poorly balanced SF ticket. Those are better figures than in Fermanagh-South Tyrone. My money is still on Sinn Féin holding three, but this is clearly a below the radar prospect for RSF.

It’s still a very big ask of a democratically inexperienced RSF. The degree of on-the-ground defections from the Sinn Fein machine may be what swings it.

On the Unionist side, the DUP Willie McCrea’s son Ian is challenging for this father’s seat whilst his running mate, Magherafelt councillor Anne Forde, will be looking to tip the UUP’s Billy Armstrong out of the seat he has held since 1998:

Clearly, Armstrong has his work cut out for him. However, while the DUP are clearly learning vote management lessons, to gain a seat here will require extraordinarily good balancing. Between that and the fact that the UKUP have a local candidate in Walter Millar, a Sandholes-based farmer who represented the DUP on Cookstown Council from 1985 to 1993, there are two barriers to the DUP pulling off a gain. DUP activists will point out that the political trajectory of Millar, once a member of the Ulster Independence Movement and now a candidate for the integrationist UKUP, is a little eccentric. That might well be, but there is clearly potential for a candidate in this area opposed to a deal with Republicans – it is precisely that section of the electorate that has given the DUP such a strong platform here for so long. But this is another seriously close one.

  • jimmyjoe

    Ha Ha
    Welcome back Sandra

  • John Junkin

    Ha Ha or should it be Haw Haw

    You are very much wrong when you say that Billy was a ‘sweeper’ in 1998. He was selected as an equal candidate of two to build on the UUP success in Mid-Ulster in 1996. He did steal a considerable lead by having all the posters/literature printed in his favour, etc. with the help of compliant staff at UUP HQ.

    I, as an election agent, know that he tried to pull the same stunt on his other party colleague in the last Assembly election, again with the help of cronies in Cunningham House. When HQ was so devious to its own members then eventually the whole house of cards was bound to crash. Do you think that it is any great wonder that your local party structure has also shrunk so drastically these last two years?

    As for being on ‘the shelf’ it is preferable to being eventually ‘hung on my own petard’ as Trimble was.

    I am really very surprised you don’t know J Junkin. Surely you were speaking to me at the vestry meeting in Bellaghy 3 weeks ago!

    Keep on smiling
    John Junkin

  • Ha Ha

    In Reply…
    From what I can just about remember, in 1998 Assembly elections the UUP voters were advised to vote Junkin 1 and Armstrong 2.

    As I have said, I’m a young voter and was not of the age to vote until recently and from what I can understand the Protestant community is the minority in Mid-Ulster – so with W McCrea always topping the poll for the DUP and so many Roman Catholics, how could the UUP or the DUP ever get more than TWO seats between them. I’m sure it’s hard enough to keep the ones they currently have!

    So the way I understand it is…. A Forde is the No. 2 for DUP this time and has no hope of getting in as MLA, therefore she is a “sweeper”. Just the same way, B Armstrong was the sweeper for the ’98 elections for the UUP.

    Trimble is not hung! He is in the “House of Lords”. Where are you J Junkin? In the “House with your feet up”! Ha Ha

    Jimmyjoe – I had a dog called that once but he got killed. Your barking up the wrong tree. Sandra must still be in Donegal in hidding!

    J Junkin – I don’t go to the vestry meetings in Bellaghy.

    Ha Ha, He He! You lot think I’m Sandra!!!! If you could see my hairy legs you wouldn’t think I was a girl!!

    Ha Ha!

    PS. Ian McCrea does sing. He does duets with his wife. Haven’t heard them though.

    So, who’s gonna top the poll for this election?

    Definately not McCrea. Wee Willie has deserted his home people and brought in a shadow – his son, just like a shadow he is Bigger and scares children! Ha Ha!

    Vote 1 UUP
    Vote 1 Armstrong

  • John Junkin

    Ha Ha

    I have enjoyed reading through your expressed views. You would make a very good member for the UUP as presently constituted. I am very impressed with your recollection of the 1998 Assembly election when you were around 10 years old. Unfortunately the archived records in the newspapers of the time and the copies of the published literature (including posters) tell a completely different story from yours. Have you been watching too much of Bill and Ben or Postman Pat because your imagination is obviously running ahead than your memory!

    It is also very wrong of you to equate Roman Catholics as being anti-unionist. With respect, many do quietly support unionism at the polls but I suspect that the more intellectually deprived unionist candidates are never likely to experience the benefit.

    I do not sit in the house with my feet up, as you appear to suggest! I work at a job I enjoy which earns a wage. Out of this, like most people, I pay tax which in turn has helped pay for the relaxed lifestyle of some of my assembly representatives and also for the previous education of school-leavers like yourself.

    As this is your first time to go to the polls be sure to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of all the candidates long before you go. Make sure also you have your nice new driving licence or one of the other approved forms of ID.

    And remember its 1,2,3…. No X’s

    Keep on smiling
    John Junkin

  • Avalon Sunset

    JJ

    Good to see you are still taking an active interest in politics – Mid Ulster is worse off without you.

    The lack of principles in this election is staggering, not least among that DUP. Can anyone answer what they will do come 24th? With the letters of resignation already on file there can be no debate on the decision – any disagreements will be harshly dealt with. They keep saying that they need SF to deliver but don’t specify exactly what they want delivered – its like logging onto tesco.com and telling them to deliver your weekly shopping without actually specifying the items you require.

    BTW if you think that the UUP party structure in MU is poor you have no idea. Half of the DUP association (Magherafelt) is in default and will have to be reconstituted and the other half (Cookstown) is becoming so overrun with internal divisions that the party officers wont even attend the meetings to sort it out. Spineless the lot of them.

    Here’s one DUP party member that will be voting Walter Miller 1st tomorrow.

  • funnyface

    Good to see old divisions still around in mid-ulster. It’s amazing how someone can say they are a member of a party yet vote for another party on election day. Surely if you are a member of a political party you support the party if not you would resign. I do believe that the DUP in mid-ulster is in crisis but because of internal personality clashes! Surely these people have bigger issues to fight rather than – I’m not going to give him my vote because of who is father is! (Talk about the baby spiting our his dummy!)There are two candidates after all vote for the other one!
    The people in mid-ulster are fed up with internal divisions among the unionist camp, no matter if they are UUP, DUP or UKUP. Heard on the gravevine this morning (when I say gravevine it was an overheard conversation between two of his collegues who have been giving out his literature) that Walter Miller and Bob have fallen out and that Walter is only using the UKUP ticket to try and gain a seat. Where are his prinicples. If I am going to give my vote to a party and candidate I would expect that person to continue to represent the party for which I voted – I vote on party policy not on personality.
    I give up! Why would anybody want to vote for these people all they do is argue among themselves!
    Hope that the people in Mid-ulster vote tomorrow for the party that will deliver what is best for them – althought that could be difficult to figure out as all the main players seem to be out for what they can gain – maybe we should be voting for those who would normally only get a second or third preference!

  • me

    I heard the same info about Walter Millar only using the UKUP for his personal gain (from a friend of his family) but I am not suprised at this as he has been in the political wilderness so long the fame must be scaring him back into hiding. I find it very difficult to try figure out how Walter can call himself a unionist when he has always in his heart wanted independance yet runs under the UKUP banner to try to get elected then go back to whats in his heart – Independance – I hope that the people of Mid Ulster give Walter a big wave goodbye as he returns to his hiding place or is this all just a ploy to test the water for a super council seat!! UKUP or Independence Movement (You can’t fall out with your leader as an independance man)

  • funnyface

    Election Day! All that fuss and what will it all be for – the same old same old!
    In reply to ME I see that Walter seems to be working with former members of the DUP. Maybe these are the people who Avalon Sunset has been talking about.
    One good thing about this being polling day – at least the posters will be coming down! Wonder who will be first to complete this task. Will it be the same guys who put the posters up that will take them down. No doubt some will do it under the cover of darkness as usual – maybe because they are ashamed to be putting the poster up. See Walter has pinched some the the DUP poster team. Seen them out putting up posters but yet trying to hid their faces! As if we don’t know who they are? Anyone want some SUPERVALUE on FRUIT AND VEG! Are they same people who are never happy with a political party uncless they have something to gripe about?
    Come on if you have not voted yet and are reading this – do yourself a favour and vote for change! Vote for a new face in Stormont. It’s about time we had a woman to represent Mid-ulster! Serveral in the field. Let’s make a change!

  • funnyface

    So the counting is over!
    3 SF
    1 DUP
    1SDLP
    1 UUP
    Where was the UKUP! O yes! They were not elected along with their leader and fellow candiadates!
    It would appear that Mr Miller was “sore ” at the lack of support in the constituency. From what I understand he tried to tackle the Doc and also other DUP members from the area.
    Congratulations to Mrs Forde – over 1,00 1st preference votes with-out having to ask for a no. 1 vote and running as a sweeper, something the last 2nd DUP candidate only did when running on the ticket of Vote in order of your preference! Will the former DUP members now accept that the people endorse the DUP position or will they continue to hold a personality grudge! The people in the country believe the policies of the DUP and could not support a candidate who did not have any party policies and does not know if he is a devolutionist, Pro-unionist or Pro-independence. Walter make up your mind. Just before you consider the Super council – remember you will not have the votes from the Magherafelt DC registers if you intend standing in your home area! Think carefully! We do not want you to have egg on your face or you and your few supporters to get flusterd when tackled on your lack of policies and principles.

  • funnyface

    “Also, his wife is apparently called Wanita. What kind of traditional Ulster name is that? Are there no Mary Annes out there? Is she a Filipino mail order bride?”

    In reply to this comment posted some time ago – I saw Wanita McCrea yesturday and she definately was not a Filipion mail order bride! I would say that she is from good Ulster stock.

    And please if Billy’s daughter runs a beauty salon she would need some work done herself! Not exactly the best advertisement for her business – but at least she will be able to employ some of the now jobless former UUP MLA’s.

    Dup seemed to have a good mix of youth at the count yesturday. Good to see that the party is still going strong in the area as it was my belief that it was in decline. I had been lead to believe that the youth had all left the party – not from what I observed.

    Not much youth see around the UUP and other than family members only OAP out with Miller. Is this a sign of the times I wonder. UKUP and UUP a thing of the past!

  • Rory

    On this confusing ‘sect’ and ‘denomination thingy – as all protestant groups are merely splinters (or splinters of splinters) from the Roman Catholic Church would it not be simpler to bunch them all together as ‘dissident catholics’?

  • excuseme

    I don’t think “all protestant groups are merely splinters (or splinters of splinters) from the Roman Catholic Church”. I do believe that the Protestant church was founded on Chrstian principles and that the RC Church was a false religion that originated in a fusion of idol worship of the god Diana and the christian faith. I stand to be corrected! and no doubt will be corrected!
    But what has that got to do with the previous blogs and politics?
    What about all the previous bloggers, what do they think of the results in mid-ulster?
    Would be interested to hear what John Junkin has to say and also espically Sandra!
    Any big insights from the unionist community and espically from former unionist candidates! I would be interested in your annalysis of the situation.

  • Rory

    I wouldn’t dream of attempting to correct your beliefs, Excuseme, all men are prone to error. It is one of the nice quirky aspects of the human condition which is a neverending source of amusement, another example in design of God’s great sense of humour.

  • elsiemount

    excuseme

    I think the result for the DUP in Mid Ulster was fantastic. In a republican constituency as this for the DUP to poll over 8,500 compared to the UUP 4800 and Millar’s “sorry I don’t know what I want to be” 1200 votes, was absolutely brillant.

    Congrats to the REv McCrea’s son. Hopes he delivers for the people of the constituency. It would be nice to see an new office although, in the middle of the town. Show the people of the area, that the DUP have something to be proud off. Two new offices would be even better. One in Magherafelt and one in Cookstown.

    anything would be better than a chicken coup, stuck out on a farm, in the asshole of nowhere.