I’ve lost count of the number of times in the last few days I have been asked about my predictions for the upcoming elections. We’ve been mulling them over here on Slugger and elsewhere since November. The fate of the Alliance party seems the hardest to call. They have had a good campaign and even the plainly dodgy figures from the Ipsos Mori poll would look good even if you clipped as much as 4 points off them. But Suzanne Breen catches up with what must be one of the top tips (at 5/4 the money tide is still flowing against her) would for a new seat, Sharon Haughey in Newry and Armagh.
Once, Newry and Armagh was sacred SDLP territory. Seamus Mallon was the MP. Post-peace process, the party’s support dipped and Sinn Féin now has three Assembly members to the SDLP’s one. Haughey is hoping to win one back and join sitting Assembly member, Dominic Bradley, at Stormont.
It’s a tough task. The Sinn Féin team is led by the high-profile able MP, Conor Murphy. Its election machine is unrivalled but, overall, the constituency is too close to call. Haughey, already a councillor, is joined on the canvass by Tom O’Hanlon, 25, the SDLP’s deputy Armagh mayor. “Young people automatically voted Sinn Féin but we’re changing that,” she says.
“We have four constituency offices, Sinn Féin have three. I’m also very proud that in the North, 40% of our candidates are female – the best of all the parties. One man on the doorstep even joked: ‘What’s wrong with the SDLP, can’t you find any men?’ I assured him there still are men in the SDLP!”