Open Thread (#ae11): East Antrim (#ean11)…

Okay, partly on foot of yesterday’s UTV tweet up in Ballymena, we flip over to East Antrim where the lost Nationalist seat is likely to re-emerge. The open question is whether Sinn Fein’s Oliver McMullen or the SDLP’s Justin McCamphill is the beneficiary. The legal challenge to McMullen currently in train his residency qualification statement that his principal or only place of work is in the Larne council area won’t do him any harm in terms of nationalist sentiment, particularly if he wins.

The UUP here had two MLAs going into the election and are running two. One sitting, Roy Beggs and one aspirant, Rodney McCune. McCune’s regularly run for the party both here and in North Antrim over the last decade. He’s well regarded in the party but having been London based, he may struggle to get the hard constituency yardage that STV demands.

The DUP have three (with voter catcher and Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson at their head) and are running four. The Alliance party are seeking to replace former leader with Stewart Dickson, but they also have a second candidate, Gerardine Mulvenna.

If you are going to look for a McGuinness squeeze from the DUP on the UUP, this might be one place it could happen. But what do you think?

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  • Barry the Blender

    The DUP have missed their moment here if they hope to sweep four. They should have tried it last time.

    A nationalist seat here is probable, but by no means certain. Neither in my view are alliance. For two non unionists to make the cut they’d better hope that the unionist vote doesn’t turn out, and that which does transfers at a very sloppy rate.

    The battle here is for the last 2 seats, which will involve a unionist, a nationalist and an Alliance.

    I am not making any call.

  • ga11

    Total nationalist and alliance vote in 2010 was 1.7quotas. They will need to do much better if there is going to be an alliance and nationalist seat.

    If unionists turn out as in 2010 – there are five unionist seats. If there is a nationalist elected its more likely to be sdlp than sf.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    “Okay, partly on foot of yesterday’s UTV tweet up in Ballymena, we flip over to East Antrim where the lost Nationalist seat is likely to re-emerge.”

    Any chance you can keep a tally of ‘Slugger predictions’ and update and add it to the bottom of each constituency thread?

  • Barry the Blender

    On the predictions site we tend to go round in circles as to whether the Westminster results have any validity in predicting assembly outcomes. This is most often argued by people who didn’t like the assembly result that the Westminster election suggests.

    For what it’s worth, the total unionist vote in East Antrim was 75.6 % or 5.3ish quotas. With 8 unionists chasing 5 possible seats, it all comes down to turnout n’ transfers.

  • iluvni

    One would like to think that the sheer greed of Sammy Wilson in insisting upon double jobbing (instead of doing one job properly) would be frowned upon by the East Antrim electorate.

  • Barry the Blender

    I reckon he’ll take in around 5-6000 votes on his own. Enough to bugger up the chances of balancing 4 at any rate…

  • PaddyReilly

    The combined Nationalist vote was 13.4% in a Westminster election, i.e. one in which there was absolutely nothing to win for Nationalists. It only requires another 250 votes to achieve a full quota, even without transfers.

    However, the fly in the ointment is that SF got 45 votes more than the SDLP, and in a constituency as overwhelmingly Protestant and Unionist as East Antrim, only the SDLP has a realistic chance of winning a seat. SF can only transfer to the SDLP, whereas SDLP will not transfer to SF with sufficient enthusiasm: their transfers will as often go to Alliance, even to the SDLP.

    So a Nationalist win here requires that the SDLP outscores SF. If the SDLP are eliminated first, SF is unlikely to get anywhere near a quota. One only hopes that 50 SF voters see the light and write SDLP 1 SF 2 instead of SF 1 and SDLP 2.

    As regards the question of Westminster versus Assembly elections, it is obviously the case that they function differently. In Westminster the competition is between the two largest parties, who attract to themselves votes from the Mickey Mouse parties, whose percentages correspondingly depressed. Many people do not bother to vote for a candidate who has no hope of winning anything.

    Stormont however is a crumbfest for the Mausvolk. Tiny percentages which in other systems would consign you to the scrapheap of history are sufficient to get you a good job. Just because you were laughed from the stage in the x-factor doesn’t mean you can’t win 1st prize in an Ahoghill talent competition.

  • PaddyReilly

    Erratum: instead of “even to the SDLP”, read “even to the UUP”.

  • Lionel Hutz

    It will be very interesting to have a consensus on all 18 constituencies and then tally it up. It seems from the threads so far, that this election is going to be very good for the SDLP. Lose one and get 3 or 4

  • john

    I think the election for the sdlp could be quite interesting.
    They could retain North and South Antrim and they may pick up a seat in East Antrim, Strangord, West Tyrone and a third in South Down but they may also come away empty handed. I think SF’s vote will increase slightly but they will remain on 28 seats. Dup will only lose a couple of seats and I think the UUP vote will be down quite a bit but will then mop up a lot of transfers to retain most of their seats. Alliance to have a good election and to pick up 1 or 2 seats.

  • Red Rob

    It seems light years away that East Antrim was a UUP stronghold under the Beggs dynasty. Now undoubtedly a DUP stronghold and Sammy Wilson has grown in popularity since his move from East Belfast. I don’t think they will pick up 4 seats though. UUP should be assured of one, Beggs, with McCune enhancing his reputation as a perennial loser. Alliance are usuallly strong around the Jordanstown – Carrickfergus part of the constituency and Dickson should assume Neeson’s seat.

    3 DUP, 1 UUP, 1 Alliance, 1 SDLP

  • RyanAdams

    I think the DUP don’t have much chance of four, but they are far in excess of three quotas. Like him or loathe him, Wilson has been one of few competent ministers in the executive and the 2010 Westminister Result was a ringing endorsement of his work to that point, and that will work to the DUP’s advantage here.

    The Ulster Unionists are defending their two seats here, although its much more likely that if any seat is lost it will be one of theirs. Alliance is also running two candidates, although even with Neeson as one of them in 2007 they couldn’t do it then, so they’ve little chance now.

    This will be one constituency which will get my attention on results day.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The legal challenge to McMullen currently in train his residency qualification in the council won’t do him any harm in terms of nationalist sentiment, particularly if he wins.

    Let’s be clear about this.

    Were Sinn Fein and the SDLP to seek the removal of a unionist candidate in a demographically reversed council area- eg Derry- then we’d hear a lot of screaming about the message being sent to a beleagured protestant minority.

    Larne is a town which has witnessed a significant intimidation campaign against catholics since the GFA, with many leaving the town as a result. Even before that, it was hardly renowned as a place of toleration.

    Furthermore, as you correctly highlighted, having all shades of unionism/ loyalism lined up against a nationalist candidate in such a manner can only be beneficial to Oliver’s election prospects and, at this stage, were he to pull off a shock and claim as Assembly seat, then he’ll likely owe it to this grubby little sectarian maneouvre.

  • Chris Donnelly is right to point up the intimidation factor. Danny O’Connor suffered a lot.

    But on the constituency itself, theres 3 certain DUP, 1 certain UUP and 1 (nearly certain) Alliance. I will expand on the Alliance position when I think thru a few things.
    There is every prospect of a nationalist seat, probably SDLP.
    Id tend to qualify the 2010 result by saying that theres no real incentive for nationalists to turn out. The Assembly is different.
    Not got time to number crunch tonight but Id draw attention to the DEAs The Glens DEA (part of which transfers to East Antrim) is of course overwhelmingly nationalist but look at the Coast Road and Larne Town.
    On the Coast Road nationalists outvote Alliance by over 2:1 and in Larne Town by 3:1.
    The tiny part of the University DEA from Newtownabbey is also a factor. Students have got on the register.
    Which brings me to Carrick. No nationalist candidate at in any DEA there. But Sean Neeson got votes that Stewart Dickson wont get. SDLP will benefit more than SF.
    Does nationalist sentiment end where Ballycarry (Larne) meets Blackhead. Are Catholics (to put it crudely) in Carrickfergus different in sentiment from their cousins in Larne? No.
    SDLP will take the seat.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Biggest danger for nationalists is what is likely to happen.

    Namely, that SF outpoll the SDLP by sufficient distance to ensure elimination of the latter but insufficient transfers from the SDLP candidate to ensure last standing unionist pips McMullan.

    I’ve some experience of this scenario working in Lagan Valley for the guts of a decade- though it never actually transpired there, it would have in ’03 had Butler remained ahead of Lewsley for another couple of counts.

    Having grown up in East Antrim, I’ve also a sense for the nationalist sentiment there.

    Though Danny O’Connor sprang something of a surprise in ’98, in reality there has never been a proper presence by either nationalist party in the constituency, and my fear is that the failure to motivate the nationalists across East Antrim will ensure there remains no nationalist representation until the next Assembly election.

    Having said that, this little campaign sparked by unionist councillors in Larne could be McMullan’s ticket as there’s still time to create the type of momentum and mood necessary to galvanise a dormant vote.

    The arrival of the Glens electoral area into the constituency provides a solid base to organise a proper electoral/ political campaign, and with Sinn Fein clearly in the ascent in that area I can’t see where the SDLP’s momentum is going to come from (unlike Strangford, which is all SDLP as Sinn Fein appears to have decided to sit this one out there.)

    In 2005 I actually attempted to get a Sinn Fein candidate on the ballot paper for one of the DEAs in Carrick, having to give in at the end due to an unwillingness by otherwise supportive local catholics to sign the nomination papers for fear of loyalist attacks.

    This puts the unionist campaign in Larne in its proper context.

  • I agree with some of that.
    Out this evening but coming home to the news that a SDLP canvassing car has been attacked in Coagh (I dont know the circumstances) which we obviously all condemn.
    Particuarly disappointing as theres almost a normalisation of politics where posters appear and seem to stay in unlikely places…..much to the chagrin of liberal dissidents.
    Also the young staffers etc seem to be all on each others Facebook and Tweetery thing ….

    But can I put a scenario. I am a rather elderly kinda fella with absolutely too much time on his hands. There must be thousands like me. I take the view that every party has a duty to offer themselves to every voter in every DEA. We seem to have inched closer to that.
    As can be seen in the nominations…..candidates can be parachuted but getting those ten signatures is the problem.

    So as the example of Felicity Huston the Appointments Commissioner proves, assenting to a nomination is NOT deemed to be support.
    If an organisation could be established to facilitate the candidature of unpopular home based parties (ie excluding the BNP) in any constituency it would be a move forward.
    All it needs is ten members in Carrick……and ten in Crossmaglen for example. There are probably less that 50 DEAs where its a real problem.
    Put simply if a TUV person wanted to stand in my DEA I hope there would be ten folks who would say “no problem”.
    Would that help?
    Voting and Democracy.
    Surely 500 people is enough.
    And it would be a bigger contribution to Democracy than expensive and stupid campaigns to change the voting system.

  • RyanAdams

    No-one should be counting on any student votes here, its exam season quite frankly we’ve got better things to be doing. Not only that, students tend to leave today as its the end of the semester and will only travel up to do the exam and go home again.

    So in other words, all the nationalist votes from Fermanagh, Tyrone simply won’t be here on election day. Just a case of tough titty for Sinn Fein.

  • Glensman

    What should not be under-estimated is the poor quality of the Nationalist candidates…

    Oliver has a habit of rubbing a lot of people up the wrong way, he will get SF votes but will be short on personal votes.
    Justin is still un-hooking his parachute; from talking to him I found him to be very nice to speak to and personable, but seriously lacking knowledge on local issues.

    One thing that may help both candidates is a more exciting than normal council election in the Glens area. This may transfer to an improved turnout.

    I can see this ending up with no nationalist representative. I personally don’t want to vote for either candidate… I wouldn’t be keen on voting for Oliver as he is a troublemaker but then I don’t want to give the SDLP a vote because if they get in we’ll never hear from them until the next time they need an X.

  • Michael Shilliday


    Your argument seems to go “electoral law is all well and good, but themmuns are only doing it to spite ussuns.”

    Which is pathetic.

    A unionist candidate had to pull out in Ballymoney for the simple reason that he wasn’t eligible to stand for election, he didn’t meet the criteria. If Oliver McMullan is in a similar position, why should he be treated any different?

  • “having all shades of unionism/ loyalism lined up against a nationalist candidate”

    I’m told the bold Oliver was elbowed out of the Glens EA of Moyle DC where he’s been a councillor for many years, initially as an independent. His party colleague, Cathal Newcombe, was deselected in the Ballycastle EA. Now we have the mess re. Larne BC. Have the problems been created by SF HQ or at local level?

  • PaddyReilly

    One great imponderable of the forthcoming election is the expected performance of the TUV.

    In the Euros of 2009, the TUV achieved a percentage vote which was 75% of that of the DUP. In the 2010 Westminster election they only got 15% of the DUP’s vote.

    Fans of the DUP seem to imagine that the TUV vote has just gone away and will remain at 2010 levels. I suspect that it will partially recover, and may even be encouraged by the Assembly system of voting.

    The problem is that this system requires you to vote for the candidates in order of preference, whereas a significant proportion of the population think they are voting for the parties in order of preference.

    So, for example, in West Tyrone you got people who voted for the SF top candidate, then skipped the other SF candidates and went straight to an SDLP one, then skipped the other SDLP candidates and went straight to the Independent. Result: Kieran Deeny got in, defeating the SDLP candidate with transfers from the SDLP.

    So, one would expect that a number of people in say, East Antrim, will vote for Sammy Wilson (DUP) and give their second preference to Ruth Wilson (TUV). In this way, the TUV votes will stack up.

    Consequently, in all constituencies where there are currently more than 2 DUP seats (I think the list is East Londonderry, North Antrim, East Antrim, East Belfast, Strangford and Lagan Valley) there is a risk that one of these will go to the TUV.

    So the number of TUV seats is, imho, likely to be greater than the currently expected one in North Antrim, despite the poor showing in the Westminsters.

  • Paddy Reilly is right to point up the TUV but I dont take the parallel with Deeney as he was able to attract transfers from all over and TUV wont.
    The Council Elections help TUV. Theres a few exDUP stalwarts who are TUV now but generally speaking they tend to appear in clusters (that was my initial observation anyway).
    But judging Jim Allisters TV performance. he personified a back to the future stance which will resonate….but not enough. Ultimately they are lacking big names…..Mel Lucas (South Antrim) might be a better bet than Ruth Wilson.
    We have little statistical evidence because of their newness and we are left mostly with gut feelings. I cant see a breakthru.

  • PaddyReilly

    As Fitz correctly points out, the TUV do not attract transfers in the way that Centralist candidates do. But they are likely to get transfers from the DUP: and indeed to pinch the DUP 1st prefs. But for this to happen you need a constituency with a lot of DUP voters, which is why I rated East Antrim a higher chance than South, where there are only 2 DUP MLAs.

  • UpperBann

    TUV got 20% of the vote in the Lurgan by-election on a 22% turnout. 752 votes could be over 2,000 on a 65% poll or 5,000/6,000 over all of Upper Bann. Who knows what might happen. There are floating voters who will change sides because of the new liberal tendency within the DUP recently – witness Peter, the Mass and Integrated Education.

  • separatesix

    Pretty sure the boundaries have redrawn in East Antrim to suit a certain agenda.