#AE11 Open Thread: West Tyrone (#wt11)

I had thought about moving on to Foyle, but considering the resignation of former MLA Eugene McMenamin (after he failed to get selected as the official SDLP candidates), things have gotten nicely complicated over in West Tyrone. He’s expected to be one of two former SDLP candidates in the race.

Ross Hussey is running this time for the UUP and may provide a much needed gain for the Ulster Unionists, probably at the expense of Alan Bresland of the DUP who seems to have been as surprised as anyone else at his good luck in winning last time.

It’s one of the few places where we can expect seats to change hands, since the standing down of the hospital candidate Keiran Deeney ought to gift the seat to the SDLP. But, hey, it might surprise us and offer no change at all. What do YOU think?

– See also Sammy Morse’s 2007 profiles

– Splintered Sunrise’s profile for the Westminsters last year

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  • 6crealist

    McMenamin didn’t put his name forward for selection. In fact, he didn’t even attend the selection meeting back in the autumn of 2010.

    Bizarre guy, bizarre choice. He’s facing another humilation: lucky if he can poll more than a few hundred.

    Not convinced Byrne will take a seat: Sinn Féin will push hard for four.

  • son of sam

    Logically Joe Byrne would have been expected to recapture the seat for the S D L P but the intervention of Mc Menamin and Paddy Mc Gowan[both former party members] may once again work to Sinn Feins advantage.By all accounts Mr Deeney was a rare attender at Stormont so its hard to see what either Mc Gowan or Mc Menamin would achieve apart from gratifying their personal egos!

  • PK

    Dont rule out the DUP keeping two especially if the UUP are in meltdown?

  • Valenciano

    3 Sinn Fein and 1 DUP certain. Another unionist seat certain. I also wouldn’t rule out the DUP for that with the UUP struggling, however West Tyrone saw a much bigger UUP increase in 2010 in Deeny’s absence.

    The last seat will be fought between the fourth Sinn Fein runner and the SDLP candidate. Sinn Fein only had 3.4 quotas in 2010 so they’re not yet at the stage where they can outbalance the SDLP. I’d go for 3 SF, 1 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 SDLP, though a 2nd DUP win wouldn’t surprise me.

  • Bigger Picture


    I don’t agree that the UUP are guaranteed a seat here nor that it will come at the expense of Allan Bresland.

    The DUP in West Tyrone have always split the constituency evenly between the two council areas with Buchannan taking Omagh and Bresland in Strabane. This is how they managed to take a seat off the UUP the last time and it is a strategy that appears to work well for them.

    Also if Hussey is making gains anywhere it is in Omagh town rather than the (even) more rural parts of the constituency, which will impact Tom Buchannan more than Bresland.

    It will be tight for the DUP to hang on to their two seats but I would be quietly confident that they could do it here.

  • By all accounts this should have been a breeze for the SDLP. Finally waking up to their political reality in West Tyrone and running only 1 candidate, Joe Byrne should have taken a seat comfortably.
    McMenamin and McGowan’s 1-2 agreement has thwarted that. McMenamin (Strabane DC) and McGowan (Omagh DC) are evenly distributed to pick up plenty of transfers from one another. The split means Sinn Fein realistically have a chance of 4 seats.

    Similar for the UUP’s single candidate Ross Hussey, there should in theory be enough of a UUP quota across the constituency. But Hussey’s seat would have to come at Bresland’s expense. As has been mentioned Bresland has a strong base in Strabane DC, while Ross is Omagh centric. It will be close I think. Buchanan should retain his seat.

    Alliance fielding their first WT candidate since 2003 is neither good news for SDLP or UUP. On the other hand with so many moderates, there will be plenty of transfers flying around.

  • On Saturday morning I identified West Tyrone as one of the most interesting constituencies largely because of the McMenamin factor. Sadly, tragically the constituency is now even more in the news.
    Incidently I would not rule out another high profile “Independent”.
    There seems to be near certainty that three SF people will be elected. Barry McElduff has emerged as the Medias favourite Sinn Féiner (and the media dont have many). Not afraid to send himself up, he has surpassed Pat Doherty as the leading SF person in the constituency. Michaela Boyle inherits Claire McGills “Strabane” seat but theres an element of fast tracking about her. She was a co-option to the Council.
    Can Declan McAleer take a fourth seat? Personally I doubt it. There might be a mini-headline at the count centre if he takes a third seat at Pat Dohertys (largely dismissed in the Media as an absentee) expense.
    But what odds would Paddy Power give me on 65 year old Pat Doherty standing down within the next two years and Declan McAleer MLA being on the ballot paper next time round.
    There are still I think two unionist seats and unless there is a wider UUP melt down I see Hussey taking back the seat. I think hes helped by “Hussey” being the dominant name in UUP in both Strabane and Omagh council areas.
    Council Elections cant be ignored.
    The conventional wisdom for a year has been that Joe Byrne would take back a seat for the SDLP. It was spectacular mismanagement (2007) to get a full quota in first preference votes and still not win a seat…but Joe Byrne was not actually a candidate.
    This time round there is no issue (the A5? ) on which an Independent can rally support. Patrick McGowan was SDLP and his transfers will “go home”.
    McMenamin is just a wee bit too “cute” for my delicate tastes. On what issue has he so distanced himself from SDLP in the past week. He is merely a spoiler. There is no substance.
    So….Sinn Féin 3, DUP 1 (all certain).
    the fifth and sixth seats (probably) …..any two from DUP/UUP and SDLP.
    but just possibly SF nicks one ahead of any of those two.
    Independents (pending a third intervention) no chance.
    But dont I still have that Deeney “beaten docket” among my souvenirs. I dont think Ive mentioned that on Slugger before. 🙂

  • The Alliance candidate (as mentioned by Aldous Duke) is Eric Bullick, a new name on me and Party Chairman or whatever in the area. Aldous Duke will of course know him. The Independents are strong in Omagh Town (two council seats) and as with Deeney, there is a certain “Alliance proxy” nature about them.
    But AP got their best vote (2010) in the west of the Bann “nationalist seats” in West Tyrone about 45% of the total vote in the “green” west. Thats credible but ultimately transfer fodder.
    The key to McMenamins vote is Strabane Council area. On 2005 figures he got about three quarters of the SDLP votes in Strabane Town (Mourne). And theres only one other SDLP councillor on the entire Strabane area.
    There might well be SDLP voters (indeed there must be) in Strabane who will be saying “Good old Eugene” but at least as many disgusted at him.
    Aldous Duke is of course right that Byrne will get “moderate” transfers but if the general opinion is that SF have 3 seats and a surplus short of 4 seats, then their transfers are in play.
    Last time nearly half of SFs final transfers did not transfer. But they might find Joe Byrne more transfer friendly than “Pat McGowan MBE”.

  • Barry the Blender

    Dear goodness me. Has the Allan Bresland fan club registered on Slugger en mass or something?

    For the DUP to keep two seats here they need to poll double the UUP vote and balance it evenly.
    That’s not going to happen.

    I had thought that Sinn Fein were fucking about with 4 candidates but now….I’m not so sure.

  • Bigger Picture

    “For the DUP to keep two seats here they need to poll double the UUP vote and balance it evenly.”

    yes, which is exactly what they did last time. Do keep up..

  • Sam Maguire

    SF vote management will be crucial to any hopes of getting the 4th seat. If they ignore the lure of topping the poll, they could manage the vote so each candidate gets about 4.5k to 5k on the first count then they’re in with a shout and, crucially they’ll still be ahead of the 2 independents and the SDLP. After that I envision a gutting match between the 2 ex SDLPer’s and the and the volume of Independent to SDLP transfers will decide the seat. I reckon between McGowan, McMenamin and Bullock there’ll be 2.5-3k votes up for grabs after they’re eliminated – it will be interesting to see how many don’t transfer.

    As for the Unionist battle – going on the Westminster numbers, Ross Hussey looks like he should wipe the DUP’s eye. For the DUP to have any chance of the second seat both Bresland and Buchanan will have to outpoll Hussey on the first count and I find it difficult to envisage that this time out. Indeed, depending on SF vote management strategy as I alluded to earlier I reckon, while unlikely, it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility of Hussey topping the poll!

  • IJP

    In fairness to them, the West Tyrone Ulster Unionists have maintained an office and, seemingly, worked very hard. That would explain Hussey hitting a quota last year and I suspect he’ll do so again.

    I hadn’t even contemplated SF being able to bring home four although some of you are beginning to convince me it is at least conceivable!

  • Sam maguire makes good points and hes on the ground there.
    The problem with being a “Spoiler” (does Eugene McMenamin havea platform that is radically different from SDLP?) is that some can get the outcome they want (and I think McMenamins “policy” is dont let SDLP get the seat) and his alliance with Patrick McGowan seems to confirm that.
    On the other hand they can be an unwitting “sweeper” for the Party they have left.
    Notwithstanding his personal vote in Strabane, I dont see how he can actually get more than 1,000 votes. McGowan has a track record as an Independent so why not go the whole hog and vote for him?.
    With the SDLP label in 2005, McMenamin got less than 4,000 votes in the whole constituency. The AP candidate will get around 1,000.
    McMenamins call for his supporters to support McGowan seems just petty. The people who vote McMenamin will be disatisfied SDLP people. They will promise McMenamin support on the doorstep and maybe even vote for him but will probably be happy to transfer to Byrne.
    But to me.a long way from Omagh and Strabane it all looks very petty. And West Tyrone is a place I just dont understand. have I mentioned Dr Deeney?

  • Its conceivable, certainly.

  • dodrade

    Whilst Ross Hussey is probably one of the UUP’s big hopes in this election, I expect it will be very tight between the three unionist candidates. In particular I would not underestimate Allan Bresland’s popularity in the constituency.

  • Barry the Blender

    2010 Westminster election:

    DUP Thomas Buchanan 7,365 19.8% 1.38 Quotas
    UUP Ross Hussey 5,281 14.2% 0.99 Quotas

    To sweep 2 the DUP need to take 1,100 UUP votes and balance their candidates perfectly.
    If you’re all seriously suggesting that there were 1,100 UUP votes who would vote for Allan Bresland given the chance then maybe the DUP should have stood him as a candidate in 2010.

  • Drumlins Rock

    IJP, although Tom Elliott already had a crazy area to cover he invested quite a bit of time and effort in supporting Ross and the UUP in West Tyrone over the last 4 years, I think he has a strong desire to see Ross secure a seat this time round!

  • Sam Maguire

    I wouldn’t rule out Bresland completely, if you were to compare like with like I’d say there as many, if not more, DUP votes in the Strabane DC are than Omagh DC. However, I’d suggest it’s likely Buchanan will annex Castlederg and Killen to keep the seat.

  • D McMonagle

    Interesting election. There’s 3 SF for sure and 2 Unionist for sure. The last seat will be between SDLP and one of the independents. Byrne must be worried.
    In his Westminster attempt there were about 4000 or 5000 voters that didnt show up on election day (61% turnout is low for West Tyrone).
    I remember when McMenamin ran for SDLP in Westminster in 2005 he called it a poison chalice because Deeny was running on the Hospital issue and it seemed the SDLP forced McMenamin to run in a token manner for the party (probably one of the reasons why he resigned)something which Fitzhorse has overlooked.
    If these votes come out for the independents the SDLP will lose out.
    My call is 3SF, 1 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 Independent

  • On the Unionist split: the DUP had their best election ever at regional level in 2007. The margin between Bresland and Hussey on the fifth count was less than 500 votes. If the UUP have invested even a little effort here, they should gain one of the DUP seats (though I cannot predict which).

    On the Nationalist side, SDLP defectors have never done terribly well in this part of the world (or any part of the world, for that matter). McGowan stood in 1998 and got less than 3% of the vote. The SDLP should have taken Deeny’s seat last time but for sheer carelessness. I would be astonished if they failed to win it back this time. (But I was astonished when Deeny won in 2003…)

  • I was astonished at Deeney too. Cost me a few quid (but I never mention it).
    I see McMenamin (“I am not Joe Byrne” is hardly a manifesto) and McGowan as little more than spoilers who are perhaps trying to increase a local profile with the additional publicity that Assembly candidates get.
    But even then it seems foolish in McMenamins case.
    He took 75% of the SDLP votes in his Strabane DEA (his single running mate got 25% and wasnt elected).
    Now I know very little about Strabane. And its been a bad area for the SDLP …the entire council now has one SDLP person in 15/16 councillors (too lazy to look it up) but presumably most SDLP voters in Strabane voted for McMenamin because of the label rather than the name.

  • coreyfrench

    Michaela Boyle is a great representative she stands up for women and young people and is very intrested in issues that are currently effecting her constituency i have worked closely with her in the council and she was one of the best councillors that strabane had and she will win and be a great assembly member VOTE MICHAELA!!

  • Sam Maguire

    By nominating him, it seems Deeney has nailed his colours to the Paddy McGowan mast. If he gets a public endorsement from Deeney there’s a good possibility that he will get a bump at the expense of the Byrne.

    Let’s be frank, it will probably take whatever the opposite of the perfect storm is for the SDLP to fcuk this one up again, but the more I see, the more likely it becomes.