#AE11 Open thread: South Belfast (#bels11)

As Alan points out in South Belfast there are eleven parties standing candidates… but none of them are independents. Again, there’s not likely to be much play in the overall game..

It will be worth looking at Conall McDevitt’s (occasionally of this parish) performance who is standing for election for the first time having been co-opted for Carmel Hannah’s seat. He’s had plenty of time to build his provenance there, so he should be safe. Keep an eye on Máirtín O Muilleoir who will be looking to carve out Sinn Fein beachhead in the council right in the heart of the SDLP’s in prosperous backyard in Balmoral.

The smart money is probably no change. But it will be interesting to see how things work out for the outgoing Health Minster Michael McGimpsey whose running mate Mark Finlay is said to be working hard to bring in a personal vote. Will he tip the scales too far?

See also:

– Sammy Morse’s profile for the 2007 Assembly elections

– Splintered Sunrise on the Westminster elections last year..

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  • Mark Finlay may well be a very pleasant and nice chap, but he comes across as being a very arrogant and cocky media guru who seems to think he can get (and deserves to be) elected by his ‘clever’ use of PR tactics and manipulation of the electorate. Its also pretty obvious to outsiders that there is major friction between him and McGimpsey and within the local constituency party. The number game between both will be a very interesting one to watch.

  • RyanAdams

    I can see this being quite a close contest once again. The DUP seem to have split their territory up quite well, with Spratt getting Castlereagh and getting Belfast, whereas UUP and SDLP have split both districts giving each candidate a little bit;

    Balmoral and Castlereagh West both seem to be given to McDevitt (sdlp) and Finaly (uup), whereas Laganbank and Castlereagh South seem to have been given to McDonnell and McGimpsy.

    Given the prescence of four unionist candidates though in a tightly balanced constituency where nationalists are fielding three, I doubt there will be much change. If however one nationalist seat does fall, it could be Maskey. He polls a good first preference vote, but can’t ever seem to attract transfers. In 2007 he came third on first preferences but filled the sixth seat sub quota.

    Minar boundary changes should have a minimum effect here, other than to give the DUP a small boost from Hillfoot. As far as the Carryduff element is concerned, the town is probably on par with the make up and political opinion of the outgoing MLAs.

    I am going to stick my neck out here and say no change, but I think Anna Lo will be elected on the first count, possibly even topping the poll.

  • Nordie Northsider

    I have a suspicion that this election will not go well for the SDLP. They are hugging themselves for defending their seats at the Westminster election, forgetting that there was substantial tactical voting by Unionists. I don’t have a problem with that, but I doubt if Unionists will be so inclined in a PR election in multi-seat constituencies.

    No party goes into an election saying they’re going to lose seats, but there seems to be an ill-advised bullishness about SDLP people. I might have a punt on Ó Muilleoir.

  • PaddyReilly

    Damn cunning tactic that, vote for the opposition in order to lull them into a false sense of security.

    No, there was a DUP candidate at Westminster and a UUP one. If it was a straight SF/SDLP fight, then one might expect that some of SDLP vote would be really Unionist, but not here.

    The Nationalist side have advanced their cause by keeping down the number of candidates, and the Unionists have squandered their advantage. So no change.

  • Langdale

    The Finlay/McGimpsey spat has now reached epic proportions.

    Finlay’s problem is that he is trying to reach a non-unionist audience first and foremost; while McGimpsey has no idea to whom he now appeals. His vote has fallen at every election since 1998 and looks like it will continue to fall.

    There is no cooperation between the candidates, so its a dog eat dog showdown.

    Finlay is clearly wrong if he thinks that his so-called PR skills will deliver much in the way of votes. Its the UUP brand—along with the general view of McGimpsey—which is so difficult to deal with.

    McGimpsey will probably cling on–just—and Finlay will bugger off somewhere else.

    Meanwhile, the UUP in South Belfast will spiral downwards into utter irrelevance.


  • Is it not fair comment that a second DUP seat is a realistic possibility given the share of the vote at 2010 Westminister (reasonably likely to improve because of a higher Unionist turnout and the likely continuing trend of DUP vote consolidating), combined with a smaller combined UUP vote split resulting in an early Unionist elimination? Given the animosity between Finlay and McGimpsey you would imagine there would be more direct 2nd pref transfers to the DUP than normal.

    I make a South Belfast quota in 2007 to have been 14% while the DUP got a direct 1st pref vote of 24% in the 2010 Westminister election. It would take very little to elevate a second DUP candidate to the Assembly in my analysis.

  • It stretches the definition of “Party” to claim that 11 are standing in South Belfast.
    The advantage is with the SDLP. With about 28% in the last Assembly and (not typical of course) 41% at Westminster 2010. That seems to confirm two seats.
    The SDLP have got a lot of students on to the register and has worked the health issue well (in a constituency which includes City Hospital, Musgrave and Knockbracken …they should be optimistic.
    Alex Maskey will probably retain his seat.
    Anna Lo (Alliance) is also safe. She will gain votes from the UUP on the Health issue and even if Claire Bailey nibbles at the edge of her vote, she should make it easily.
    There is a safe DUP seat for Jimmy Spratt.
    As always the last seat is the interest.
    McGimpsey will lose votes but like “Quincey” above, I dont rate Mark Finlay at all. One of those politicians who has a portfolio of skills. Its conceivable that UUP could implode here which means DUP could nick a seat. But my feeling is that UUP will hold.
    So……SDLP 2, DUP 1, Alliance1
    UUP, SF and DUP compete for last seat. UUP and SF get elected without reaching quota.
    Council seats. …is actually very complex.

  • Obviously I was typing slowly while “Quincey” was making the point (immediately above mine) about the DUP.
    The DUP DO have a chance here but the probability is that they will lose out.
    Re.the animosity between the two UUP candidates. Unless its overt and very public (“Quincey” is probably nearer the ground than me) then I dont think it will make any real difference to UUP voters.

  • JH

    First time voting in this assembly constituency having moved from East Antrim, where nationalists often voted UUP tactically to fight the DUP. Very happy to say I won’t be voting for McGimpsey and I’ve never heard of Finlay so him neither. I doubt either of them will be knocking my door anyways.

    Paddy Meehan seems like an articulate young lad, I’ll probably give him something. I’ve seen Conall on campus and at talks at Queens and can’t decide if I like him or not. He’s very motivated and has good ideas and a good attitude but something about him seems… disingenuous? Not hugely fond of McDonnell though I voted for him in the UK election.

    Definitely voting for Maskey and Anna Lo, they both work hard for the working communities here. Maybe PBP too.

  • We found 10% of votes to Alistair McDonnell in otherwise DUP/UUP-voting areas when tallying votes at the General Election, so he has a personal vote that he will keep in this election (except for those who think double jobbing will prevent him doing so much constituency work).

    We also found areas with a 5 to 11% green vote, where voters are telling us they are sticking with the Green Party, so I reckon at least 5% for Clare Bailey, and not just from Alliance supporters.

  • Mr Newman misinterprets my point.
    The nature of the Green Party is that they attract voters from accross the sectional divide.
    The Alliance would claim with justification to do the same. With two parties now contesting the “middle ground” in South Belfast, this will affect the Alliance vote.
    I wish Clare well and she could well be a surprise package, though not a winner at Assembly level. She could well make the Council.

  • FJH is partly right – but it is not just “middle ground” voters who respond – it is also those disillusioned with all four old parties, such as a gardener in the Village who had voted DUP all his life.

  • Well a gardener should be exactly the kinda person that the Greens should be targetting.

  • Funnily enough, it was only after I had explained in detail the Green New Deal that he even considered it.

    Others in the area were more immediately concerned about their environment, such as the state of the alleyways after football matches.

  • john

    There will be no change here. Im beginning to sound like a broken record! The truth is there are only about 8 out of the 108 seats that are not guaranteed

  • I gave Lo a preference before but her rabidly pro-abortion stance since then rules her out in our house.

    Green party gets nothing because of their shameful behaviour in the south.

    Never heard of Finlay but the sectarianism of the UUP is never far below the surface, so he’s getting nothing.

    McGimpsey, Altnagelvin, nuff said.

    McDevitt, comes across as just too smarmy. The professional politician so beloved by fitzjameshorse doesn’t wash with us.

    Double-jobbing political GP & landlord, McDonnell, has enough to be doing without looking another income from me. No thanks.

    Have always had a soft spot of the Sticks, so Lynn might get something, if he canvasses, similarly Faloon of PBP.

    Meehan, I remember from that carry-on with the Roma, but the sixth-form demeanour and lack of substance rules him out.

    Can’t say I know anything off Patterson but I remember Spratt from his RUC days. You may as well be asking me to vote for Lenny Murphy. No votes here for the DUP either.

    UKIP and the Procapitalism Party just sound racist. No thanks!

    I think that only leaves Maskey. The only person him my 13 years living in South Belfast has actually knocked on my door and canvassed my vote. Also from the only Party who returned my calls when we were plagued with anti-social behaviour in Ballynafeigh.

    So it looks like Maskey 1 and leave it, or maybe Sticks 1 for old times sake knowing it’ll transfer 2 to Maskey.

    For the Councils I’ve now moved to Castlereagh I’ll probably have an SDLP option, but as I see one of their people on the council has MBE tagged onto her name, I think I’ll spoil.

  • RyanAdams

    Castlereagh South (Essentially Carryduff, Cairnshill, Four Winds) has a Sinn Fein Candidate, as does Castlereagh West (Belvoir, Galwally, Newtownbreda, Royal Oaks, Hillfoot etc.

    It will make history in Castlereagh if either one is elected, SF has never had a representitive on Castlereagh Council. Dermot Kennedy tried, but failed never getting more than 0.4 of a quota in the Castlereagh South.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Wow Ulick!

    Thats a pretty convoluted way of getting to the point that you’re a sinn Fein voter.

    I don’t know why you went through all that individual candidate analysis when you could just say I’m voting Sinn Fein. Lots of people do. You’re one of them. Had you bothered to apply the same critique to SF as say, your analysis of UUP as sectarian unde the surface or UKIP as racist, don’t you think that you could find one or two equivalent things to say about SF?

    I find its a twisted logic that finds fault with Conall McDevitt for being a bit better polished than the average politican here, but Maskey’s double internship for IRA membership is nothing special

    I mean come on!

    Slugger is one of the few forums of genuine constructive debate and not for this sort of self-justifying drivel.

    That said, the majority of your analysis on the candidates is fair enough.

  • Actually Ulick, Im not a big fan of “professional politicians”. They certainly have a place but as a general rule, I find that some politicians may not have full grasp of “the big issues” while others are not great at writing letters to the Housing Executive or supporting a DLA claim.
    I tend to prefer a good constituency man/woman even though I am personally a lazy good for nothing who would rather THINK about things than DO anything.
    Some politicians are actually both.

  • Backbencher

    In the 2010 election the Nationalist/Unionist split was almost identical 14026 to 14010 each having just short of 3 assembly quotas. The All and Greens combined had just over one quota. Hence it looks like 1 All with the other 5 divided among the four main parties. Each will have enough to comfortably get one seat leaving a battle between the DUP and SDLP (the two biggest parties from either block in S Belfast) for the last seat.
    You would have to make the SDLP favourite given they are more likely to get the transfers from the surplus in the middle ground, although I think it will be close.
    Therefore 2SDLP, 1SF, 1DUP, 1UUP, 1All (no change from last time)

  • vanhelsing

    Just read Finlays CV – short of also being Lord Lucan he seems to be all things to all men and everywhere. Don’t fancy him [in any sense of the word]

    If there was friction between him and McGimpsey it would be a youtube moment.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Funnily enough, it was only after I had explained in detail the Green New Deal that he even considered it.

    I really hate to burst the bubble for canvassing newbies, but if anyone says “I’ll think about it” or “I’ll consider it”, they’re almost certainly not going to vote for you. If you engage them in conversation and they say things “well, now that you mention it you’re right” or similar, it means they’re trying to get rid of you so that they can get on with whatever they were doing before you interrupted them.

    I was “canvassed” by the UUP a couple of years ago. I was in the middle of something when the doorbell rang. The UUP are very much bottom of my list so, without thinking, I said “I’ll think about it” rather than “the UUP are crap and I’ll never vote for them”.

  • Mark McGregor

    I’m still pissing myself that Dave thinks anyone giving him time on their doorstep in the Village was due to anything more than utter fascination with a personality not often encountered.

    If he called to my door I’d be calling my wife to come and behold his uniqueness. If that meant enduring a lecture on the Green New Deal so be it – some times you endure the awful to behold the beauty of life.

    (Sorry Dave, but you are one of life’s characters)

    Though, if I wasn’t spoiling my ballot he would easily get a transfer!

  • Dave Newman should also be aware of the old trick of being kept talking at the door. It usually means the Voter is just preventing you doing a full nights canvass.
    Im sure the Green New Deal is every bit as fascinating as it sounds but I dont think I could actually listen to it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dave Newman should also be aware of the old trick of being kept talking at the door. It usually means the Voter is just preventing you doing a full nights canvass.

    I don’t know if it’s a “trick” as such, some people do like to talk and sometimes candidates feel that it’s rude not to. Of course, the conversation will have almost no influence on whether or not they vote for you.

  • Red Rob

    I think many commentators are underestimating the potential drop in the UUP vote in South Belfast. McGimpsey’s disastrous announcement about cancer services in the North West will damage the party beyond Foyle and I would expect him to suffer personally in South Belfast. The other candidate is an unknown so the DUP has a real chance of picking up a 2nd seat.

    The other seats are fairly predictable although I expect McDevitt to poll well and maybe even get ahead of McDonnell on first preference votes.

    2 DUP, 2 SDLP, 1 SF, 1 Alliance

  • RebVolley

    Canvass newbies or not, you know when you’re being tested, know when you’re being taunted and learn to know when to leave. More often than not there’s something to gain from the residents who want to talk, so it never hurts to engage. A much better attitude than the no eye contact, leaflet shoving robotics of some canvassers I’ve come across recently.

  • RyanAdams

    Good point Red Rob, I over looked that in my initial analysis.

    Had Bradshaw been selected by the UUP there would be an insurance on McGimpseys ministerial incompetence. She was an excellent Westminister candidate and could have performed really well here.

    In fact rumour had it, the constituency association kept her out for the very reason that she would damage McGimpsey, so all things considered, why they are running two candidates I don’t know.

    Given the treatment they gave to Bradshaw, If I was in her position I would stand here as an independent. She would probably take enough votes off them to gift the DUP the second seat on a silver platter.

  • IJP

    Suffice to add to that last post that Finlay was duly not selected as a Council candidate last week.

  • In 2010 Paula Bradshaw lost 5% of the UUPs vote share taking it to 17.4%. I dont see how any combination of UUP candidates could produce two seats in the Assembly.
    To be fair Ms Bradshaw did not leave the UUP (UNFPC) because she was not selected to stand in an Assembly Election. She left because she realised that her politics were more in line with Alliance Party.
    There should still be a UUP quota in South Belfast.
    Michael McGimpsey is head and shoulders above Mark Finlay as a candidate.
    The irony is that his unpopularity in a constituency with a disproportionate number of health service workers means that the much weaker candidate will grab the UUP seat.

  • RyanAdams


    She resigned the week following the selection. Certainly sounds like she was in it to win it or out all together.

  • IJP


    It’s important to compare like with like I guess, but since we’re discussing the Assembly Election we do have to note that that “5%” had already been lost by the time of the last Assembly Election in 2007.

    My suspicion is that another 5% has been lost since last year – I may be accused of personal bias there, but the votes will tell the tale so I’ll stick my neck out. If so, that’ll make the case of certain people close to me all the more valid!

    For all that, the UUP would still hold a seat (even if it’d be a bit of a squeak) and it’d be McGimpsey who holds it. Profile cannot be built up over a few weeks, it takes entire election cycles.

  • IJP


    As an addendum, I’m greatly enjoying your contributions in particular here. We certainly miss “Sammy Morse”, so we Sluggerettes of long standing are particularly glad to have you!

  • RyanAdams

    UUP will hold on if they remain static as in 2007, but I reckon if they slip anymore than 0.2 of a quota to what is a significantly higher profile DUP team then they’ve had it here.

    Ruth Patterson is a Balmoral councillor, so she already has a good profile built up here, whereas in 2007 they ran Stalford from Laganbank, which is a weaker DUP area. Their balancing in 2007 cost them the seat here, I think the dividing up of the constituency this time round is much more equal this time in Comparison. I think Patterson will also be much better at getting the working class areas out in places such as Donegall Road, Sandyrow, Lisburn road, Taughmonagh and the bottom of the Ravenhill. I will stick my neck out on the numbers front and expect Spratt to poll 5,000 +, with Patterson 3,500+. Lack of a TUV candidate also simplifies matters for the DUP here as there is no major threat to them from the far right.

  • Not only is Laganbank a weaker DUP are, Christopher Stalford was a much weaker candidate than Ruth Patterson. I actually spoke to him in 2007 and was not impressed.
    He has already been Deputy Mayor or some such and probably the City Hall is more his level than the Big House. Maybe in ten years.