Sammy Morse on, Newry and Armagh…

Sammy’s Newry and Armagh constituency report (all feature on Slugger’s election sidebar) is worth savouring for the fineness of the demographic detail. This strongly Nationalist constituency is also, it would appear, solidly Catholic, in the old cultural sense of what that once meant more widely in Ireland. Birth rates are by far highest here, with economic prosperity only kicking in in recent years.It is exceptional, even in European terms. As Sammy notes, it is “the last place in Northern Ireland where there is birth rate outstrips replacement level, and the last place where the great Catholic baby boom of the ’70s and ’80s is still continuing”. As well as a competitive fight here between Sinn Fein and the SDLP, there is the question of what happens to Paul Berry’s former DUP vote. The potential drama is obvious to anyone who has been following Slugger over the last few years:

Nicholas Whyte’s figures show a knife edge finish last time, with Sinn Féin’s Patricia O’Rawe edging out the SDLP’s Jim Lennon by the narrowest of margins for a gain. Net result: Sinn Féin 3, SDLP 1, UUP 1, DUP 1. In a sign that counts don’t have to be long to be exciting, just five stages here resulted in a virtual photo finish. O’Rawe finished the count exacly 600 votes ahead of Lennon, but Danny Kennedy’s undistributed surplus of 578 would almost certainly have narrowed that gap to double figures and a tiny SDLP suprlus of 14 would have narrowed it further. Since then, three MLAs, two SF and one DUP, have been deselected by their parties and two are standing as Independents.

However, Sammy doesn’t think Berry has a hope in denting his former party’s vote, and even with a strong anti Agreement platform Willie Frazer will struggle to get near 2000 (which would be more than double anything he has achieved before. Which brings us to the question of the Nationalist race:

It’s worth remembering this is not Belfast or East Tyrone. The SDLP outpolled Sinn Féin more often than not pre-ceasefire, even in Slieve Gullion. The ground isn’t as fertile for dissidents here as in Mid Ulster or Fermanagh & South Tyrone, at least on paper. It’s the peculiar circumstances of Sinn Féin’s selection meeting and the tight battle between the SDLP and SF for the last seat in 2003 that leaves things looking very interesting.

With a three way battle for the last seat, it’s hard set a winning post here in the way I did for dissidents in Mid Ulster and FST. However, 10% is probably enough to knock out one of the three Sinn Féin candidates, and if Murphy significantly exceeds the quota on the first count, even 7-8% might be enough. Could Hyland then win? He would depend on Sinn Féin transfers him favouring him heavily over the SDLP, which I can’t see, and even up at the 12% mark he would struggle to beat well balanced SDLP candidates, given the latter’s ability to attract UUP transfers.

That means Hyland probably needs a almost whole quota – 13.5% or so – to guarantee himself a seat. I can’t see that. But even a couple of thousand votes might be enough to let the SDLP win back their second seat, if enough of them fail to transfer to Sinn Féin. Would Hyland consider that a result? I doubt it’s exactly the result he’s looking for. But he would probably still consider it a result.

  • middle-class taig

    My money says Hyland to cost SF seat. SDLP gain.

  • I don’t think so MCT, the canvass returns are very good. I would imagine Davy will get just over a 1,000 votes.

    Too early to call just yet though I still believe that we will get three. I also think Sammy is overestimating Frazers vote.

  • Crataegus

    From Hyland’s point of view what is the difference between SF and the SDLP? Nothing except the SDLP have never pretended to be anything other than what they are. Hyland will poll well. I could see SF losing a seat, but then in reality what does it matter? There will be enough SF representatives anyway.

    Canvas returns alway show well as people tend to tell you what they think you want to hear. After an hour of canvassing I would doubt if subtle nuances would be uppermost in one’s mind so canvassers would see remarks like, I’ll see you right, don’t I always, no problem etc as positive when really they mean nothing except get lost.

  • Crataegus

    After an hour of canvassing I would doubt if subtle nuances would be uppermost in one’s mind so canvassers would see remarks like, I’ll see you right, don’t I always, no problem etc as positive when really they mean nothing except get lost.

    Perhaps for other political parties however not for a Sinn Féin canvass.

  • TKmaxx

    Hyland wont count that much in this election. His presence so far has been minimal. though i think the SDLP will shade two seats.

  • Yokel

    I don’t see how SF can afford to lose seats like the 3rd here. This election is about staying at the current total for both them and the DUP. If they see an extra one somewhere, all well and good but i don’t think either party is going to cry if they keep a current levels of seats.

    What will hurt is if either lose some.

  • pacman

    One small point worth noting for Sammy (excellent analysis BTW), the name on the Green Party candidates posters around the town is Ewen Morgan.

  • sam maguire

    Pacman, didn’t Euan Morgan used to be a CRJ/SF man or am I thinking of someone else

  • didn’t Euan Morgan used to be a CRJ/SF man or am I thinking of someone else

    Euan Morgan is still that man, you are thinking of someone else.

  • petewhitcroft

    Brendan Morgan will poll well in Newry & Camlough.
    We thought Arthur Brendan Morgan on the ballot might get a bit talk going.

  • John Farrell

    I dont think that Hyland will be a worry for Sinn Fein.
    I do note however that his electoral agent is Jim McAllister who I presume is the same McAllister who used to be the big SF noise in South Armagh….post H Block and pre Conor Murphy.
    I think a few more SF voters are on the register since 2003.
    I saw Mickey Bradys posters in Newry he other day, not a potential beauty contest winner.
    The SDLP man Dominic Bradley is hardly the most dynamic politician so I am half expecting Sharon Haughey to be elected.

    Paul Berry wont retain his seat. I assume that retirees dont get a payoff but losing candidates do.
    I saw a few of his posters in Tandragee main street but it looks like a token effort.
    My prediction
    SF 2
    SDLP 1
    DUP 1
    UUP 1
    and the sixth seat going again to SF

  • I saw Mickey Bradys posters in Newry he other day, not a potential beauty contest winner

    Last time I checked this was an Assembly election, not a beauty contest. Mickey Brady has been helping the people of Newry for decades.

  • I presume is the same McAllister who used to be the big SF noise in South Armagh….post H Block and pre Conor Murphy.

    The very one.

    Last time I checked this was an Assembly election, not a beauty contest.

    A very lucky thing for some of your candidates. And ours. And I haven’t even mentioned Peter Weir or Stephen Nicoll yet.

  • James Jameson

    Hyland wont count that much in this election. His presence so far has been minimal. though i think the SDLP will shade two seats.

    Hyland has been out in Crossmaglen, Cullyhanna, Silverbridge and Lislea and most of Newry and has received positive feedback. He will do well in this election as he enjoys a big personal vote. Plus the electorate(particulary in south Armagh) have – perhaps for the first time – an alternative to PSF. He will receive votes in south Armagh as an Independent Republican whereas he wouldn’t have under PSF banner.

    I predict DH will take the seat that the Shinners are warming for Micky Brady (Frank Gallaghers stunt double?)

  • N

    Dominic Bradley is a well known and well liked candidate for the SDLP in the Newry area. Hard worker – strong on the ground. He’s in. From what I have heard Sharon Haughey, although not yet as well known, is well liked and a hard worker, making an impact in other parts of the constituency. Good balancing looks likely for the SDLP. With such strong candidates, and with Sinn Féin in total disarray, this could be the election the SDLP grab one back.

  • John Farrell

    Chris Gaskin
    I am no oil painting myself so hardly knocking Mr Bradys appearance. Im sure his mother loves him. But he could well be SFs Robin Cook…..(but he faces stiff competition from Gerry McHugh. I hate to appear ungallant but Sue Ramsey the West Belfast candidate is only 33 years old, according to SF website.
    Like it or not, those of us not blessed in the looks department are election liablities while those who are well blessed in the looks department(Think Julie Kirkbride (Tory and Caroline Flint (Labour Party)they are more positively received.

    Its a fact, Chris its a fact.
    Tv is the same. David Dunseath has the perfect face for radio.
    So I just happened to see Mickey Bradys poster and I cant help thinking that he would actually be closer to a quota, if he didnt actually have a poster.

    N
    I am sure Dominic Bradley is a very nice guy but I think we are in agreement with each other. I have said that he is “hardly the most dynamic” politician and you say “well known well liked hard worker strong on the ground” is political speak for “hardly the most dynamic”

    Listen out for Paul Bew, Sid Elliott, Henry Bell etc talk about “good constituency member” and it is generally used to describe non entities and lobby fodder.
    Youre right of course that the SDLP is much better balanced in the constituency and Sharon Haughey (who I note you also describe as well liked and a hard worker) has I think a certain momentum….prolly much more at the heart of Durkins SDLP as ex PRO..than good constituency guy Bradley.
    Haughey is thinking in terms of a career.
    I think you prolly talk up SDLP chances just a little too much but you could well be right about two seats for them.
    These two candidates are both described as “hard workers and well liked” and coupled with the “total disarray” you say is in SF…your post reads as slightly partizan…..no harm in that of course.

    Any way that this constituency is looked at……five seats can be called and three (1 SDLP and 2 SDLP) are likely. The sixth whether third SF or second SDLP is still the dubious one.

  • John Farrell

    James Jameson….
    Havent I read that Hyland was a teacher in a Belfast grammar school. An odd CV fora Sinn Fein type. Lets face it nearly all the guys in SF and a few of the gals have had totally different CVs (if you get my drift). High security “universities” if you know what I mean with courses lasting 10, 15, 20 years.
    Most of them are fully signed up to policing.
    Isnt it kinda ironic that an ex-teacher is the one not signed up?

  • Dougal

    “This strongly Nationalist constituency is also, it would appear, solidly Catholic, in the old cultural sense of what that once meant more widely in Ireland”

    Really? I’m not so sure… Why do we see so many votes going to the pro-choice SF? I think times are changing.

  • interested

    Far be it for me to agree with Chris Gaskin, but I feel he understated it somewhat to say that Frazer was being over-hyped.

    Any talk of something in the region of 2000 votes is absolute fantasy. Closer to 500 might be nearer the mark. Berry will probably get 1500 or so going by what reports on the ground are saying.

    Both will transfer heavily back to the DUP, particularly Berry who is playing a little at being ‘anti-St Andrews’ given the fact that he welcomed it in the aftermath of the talks and talked in quite sympathetic terms until he probably realised that there was no way back into the DUP ranks for him. His vote is quite a personal vote and are mainly people who will transfer back to the DUP.

    Hyland should be interesting to watch and the fight for the SF/SDLP seat should be very interesting to watch. With good vote management and a bit of a breakdown in the SF tactics it could well go to the SDLP – but they need just a little bit of luck too.

  • John Farrell

    Am wondering if Paul Berry is a Free Presbyterian or even was one.
    Heard today that despite so many DUP men (and possibly women) being FreePs that the Church itself isnt fully paid up to new progressive DUP thinking….that just possibly theres some slippage in Pope Paisleys charisma within Church.

    Not quite sure that I can accept this although the source is usually right. I would have thought that FrePs were in the process hook line and sinker.
    yet I can see circumstances in which a “church” takes a more absolutist line than mere politicians.

  • BeardyBoy

    “Why do we see so many votes going to the pro-choice SF”

    The reason, I would say, is simply because of their strong stance on a United Ireland. If this was not a factor then the traditional Catholic would not vote for them.

  • Eamon Lynch

    Hyland will be the only variable worth watching in this constituency. He might not command much of a personal vote in the South Armagh area versus what he could get in Newry — and there’s that ‘sour grapes’ deselection trope to deal with — but there could be value in having Jim McAlister’s backing. Jim has kept a low profile since his wife died a number of years ago but he still commands a lot of respect among Shinners there, or at least among those who remember the days when a vote for a SF candidate was considered a protest against the state rather than an endorsement of it.

  • James Jameson

    Hyland was 20/1 with Eastwoods in Belfast on Saturday to be elected. Yesterday morning he dropped to 10/1 and currently stands at 6/1!! Whats that they say about bookies and rarely getting it wrong?

  • Sean Og

    There are 2 SF seats and 1 each for DUP, UUP & SDLP. The last seat is up for grabs. Hyland has strong support in Newry and South Armagh and his first preference vote will surprise some commentators. If he is ahead of Haughey or the 3rd SF candidate he can win. The bookies in Newry have taken a lot of money on him, thus the falling price.
    I reckon he’ll miss out by a couple of hundred and the last seat will go to Stoops with unionist transfers.