West Belfast: Eaten bread soon forgotten #ae11 #belw11

In 2007 it was impossible for anyone that follows local elections to be anything but impressed with Sinn Féin’s vote management in West Belfast; 4.9 quotas returning 5 candidates when one of them (Gerry Adams TD) was exceptionally high profile seemed to be delivered effortlessly (those that have worked campaign trails know it will have been anything but).

This time round SF are attempting the same feat with slightly different circumstance – Adams is gone so their vote management strategy will change to something entirely new. They have additional wards from the Lisburn end of the constituency that need to be factored and they also face doing this new balancing act while attempting same in two Belfast Council DEAs that have their own unique factors.

One of these DEAs, Lower Falls also includes another of SF’s notable electoral achievements – the clean sweep – where they took 5 seats from 5. This time the area might require a little more attention as they again try to return 5 candidates from what was 5.1 quotas but have republican voices in éirígí and the IRSP potentially attracting support. The SDLP may see this as a bigger chance of a council gain than either of the left republican candidates?

Upper Falls similarly may require more nurturing than usual to ensure the 4.5 quotas continue and return 4 councillors – though few would bet otherwise.

The main factor this potentially puts into play is, does Unionism have a strong enough candidate to capitalise on any vote mismanagement from SF? If they take their eye off the ball in the slightest a DUP candidate may sneak the last seat.

Though if Sinn Féin retain 5 MLAs and the 9 Cllrs across Upper and Lower Falls it will surely be a piece of canvassing/vote management of even greater aplomb than in previous years. For those that love the numbers, pulling off that balancing act again in these new circumstances would surely be a victory equal to gaining seats elsewhere?

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  • J Kelly

    mark everytime i read anything from you the more i am convinced that you miss the cut and thrust of political activism and elections and i would even go slightly further and say you miss being in sinn fein and being part of successes like this. maybe a bit off thread but not ball.

    on the main point this is all a big ask but i dont really see any other outcomes. irsp and eirigi will not pose any big problem and a fair amount of their transfers will go sinn fein on personal basis to different candidates.

  • Mark McGregor

    J Kelly,

    Of course I miss it. Shared electoralism is a very intense experience.

    I’d encourage anyone to have a go at it for a decade at some point.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The Lower Falls result in 2005 was a spectacular one, a tribute to the party and its closeness with a local community.

    I don’t envisage any change across the three West Belfast DEAs (including Dunmurry Cross alongside the Falls’ constituencies) though the fifth seat in Lower Falls could go to an SDLP candidate quite simply because repeating such a feat would be remarkable.

    The non-Sinn Fein republican candidates are likely to falter badly at the polls in north and west Belfast, coming to the realisation in the process that the republican activist base is but a drop in the nationalist electoral ocean.

    I do think Sinn Fein have a problem with regard to the Assembly. The removal of Adams from the ticket was always going to make it harder, but the fact that the candidate slate is quite weak won’t make their task any easier.

    Adams was able to pull quite a substantial vote from former SDLP voters in the constituency. Who, amongst the five candidates on the ticket, could credibly be viewed as a big hitter?

    Not one of the prospective Sinn Fein MLAs for the constituency are ministerial calibre and, to be perfectly honest, I believe that at least three are better suited to the role of local councillors than MLAs in a legislature where the party has aspirations of improving on its sluggish performance in both the Executive and Assembly chamber.

    Moves to infuse the party’s electoral ranks with former senior militant republican activists is perhaps best viewed as an attempt to reassert the party’s status as the leading voice of Irish republicanism amidst the on-going dissident campaign.

    But the price of that strategy is rather costly in arresting the evolutionary process required to open the party in a manner which can lead to an infusion of elected representatives bringing with them the skills and experience required to enhance the party’s performance at a governing level and increase the party’s appeal outside of the core republican heartlands.

    That being said, in Sinn Fein’s favour is the fact that the SDLP remain at rock bottom in the west, with a deeply unpopular front candidate and barely recognisable second candidate, whilst unionism has lost the ‘Dodds’ factor which sprung the initial suprise seat in 2003.

    My bet would be on a return of the status quo.

  • Damian O’Loan

    I would expect the SF campaign to be an exercise in getting out the vote, as opposed to masterclass in demographics. It has to build on its base, but the vote management last time was too spectacular too be considered a base. I’d expect a loss of just one.

    The ability SF has to make contented voters actually vote will be a defining criteria for its future success, so this will be an interesting result.

    Mark, without making it too personal, a blog on the spaces left by the political parties would be timely. We have at least four christian democratic parties – they must be leaving some gaps. Someone with the resources could consider whether those spaces amount to an opportunity or a threat.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mark, SF are obviously originating as a party of opposition shall we say, but are now a party in power, how long will it take for real politics of water, roads and schools to hit them at the polls, is there any sign of it yet?

  • Driftwood

    The lumpenproletariat get the people they deserve I suppose. Doubt if George Osborne is worried about who these lowlife elect, wont affect any of us outside the ghetto.

  • Chris Donnelly

    A pretty despicable comment accurately reflecting the character of its author.

    How long until those issues ‘hit’ the UUP?
    The new Assembly term could bring new challenges for the main parties in terms of making hard sells to their electorates, but, in the absence of credible opposition voices to attract the discontented, I don’t forsee republicans losing their pre-eminent position within nationalism any time soon.

    Nor, for that matter, is a UUP revival on the cards, and for very similar reasons.

  • Greenflag


    ‘ how long will it take for real politics of water, roads and schools to hit them at the polls, is there any sign of it yet?’

    A good question but in the context of NI politics a little premature . Were ‘real ‘politics ever the issue in NI? or were and are electoral politics just the same old constitutional divide as per usual -nowadays a little modified to reflect merely internal bloc differences between the parties of green/white /orange versus those of red /white/blue.

    We forget that ‘real ‘ politics never bothered or hardly impacted NI during the long (52) years of Unionist party rule.
    Perhaps ‘real ‘ politics are simply not possible given the limitations of both the constitutional divide and the curtailed powers of the NI Assembly . Whether SF hold all their seats or lose one is hardly going to make a difference now is it ? .

  • Old Mortality

    I don’t think Marx would have quibbled much about the ‘lumpenproletariat’ description being applied to the populace of West Belfast, or was it Engels who thought that one up? Admittedly, there probably aren’t too many brothel-keepers or rag-and-bone merchants around West Belfast but still.

  • Charminator

    No change. Attwood’s never really performed here, always stuggled through with a bit of help from his Unionist friends.

  • Chris Donnelly makes a good point re the calibre of Sinn Féins candidates in West Belfast.
    Paul Maskey and Jennifer McCann are probably back bench material. Actually….I like Ms McCann (notwithstanding the irony of her introducing a Stormont function on safety at work)
    The other two elected in 2007 (Fra McCann & Sue Ramsey) would be better suited to councillor level.
    Pat Sheehan is clearly only there to appease the old guard…….like Ian Milne in Mid Ulster and Sean Lynch in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
    On the specifics of West Belfast, 80% support in a DEA is just about the maximum level of support anyone can get without migrating to PDR Korea. So I suspect there will be a council seat for SDLP in both Upper & Lower Falls.

  • RyanAdams

    I would give it 50:50 they lose a seat in the assembly by dodgy vote management. Jenny McCann has definatley got the weaker Lisburn end which includes Dunmurray. Voters in this middle class area are much more SDLP than their counterparts in other parts of West Belfast. The constituency also now houses more unionists, with a new drip in Dunmurray ward itself in addition to the existing Suffolk in Ladybrook which has seen a rise in registration levels, and SF have been worried because it wasn’t them who got those names there.

    Then theres Shankill, Highfield and Glencairn. If Brian Kingston is able to engage the community and get the vote out well, SF will have a problem.

  • liam charles

    I think that Bill Manwaring will be giving Brian Kingston a run for his money. Bill has been doing good things on both sides of the wall and is building support. As someone who is not from the protestant part of West Belfast, I would see him as someone who will get SDLP transfers. If he works as hard in the Shankill as he says he does on his facebook then he is in with a shot of getting more first prefs then the DUP. Last year he raised the UUP vote (as a Conservative in West Belfast that was no mean feat) as a complete unknown.

    People I know from the Shankill all rate him, he seems to be genuine and not afraid of hard work.

    Having said all that, I am not convinced that there will be enough protestants voting to give either UUP or DUP a chance.

  • RyanAdams

    It is the most deprived constituency in Northern Ireland, Foyle coming second and North Belfast coming third, but yes the West is by a mile a complete Hole. Makes Foyle look like the Malone.

  • RyanAdams

    I am so getting a yellow card for that.

  • Tomas Gorman

    Being from West Belfast, I don’t think anyone will blame me for being offended by Driftwood and yourself Ryan.

    Utterly appalling comments.

  • J Kelly

    Why are West Belfast, Foyle and North Belfast the most deprived in the North?

  • Tomas Gorman


    I’d say that a better lesson ignorance can be found right here on Slugger.

  • Chris Donnelly

    And perhaps they should be introduced to you to meet a clearly unreconstructed bigoted fool.

  • Neil

    Fantastic to hear people who clearly know literally nothing of West Belfast come out to describe that quarter of the city as scum. It’s good to see arseholes letting the mask slip gents, so thanks for that.

    I would be out and about driving in West Belfast every night of the week. I would imagine the wankers above would most likely be disappointed to discover how normal it is 90% of the time.

  • RyanAdams

    I’ll accept that comment was a bit too harsh.

    But there are some areas of West Belfast which are crime ridden and have more people on benefits than anywherelse in NI. D
    Joy riding is a massive problem, and its the worst constituency in NI for antisocial behaviour. And what have the elected representitives done to change any of that, except blame everybodyelse.

  • RyanAdams

    J Kelly

    Visit NINIS to find out exactly WHY.

  • Tomas Gorman


    It was more than a harsh comment. It was a lousy collective insult. In 2011 it’s incredible that people like yourself have a Dickensian mindset that blames poverty on the poor.

    If you and Driftwood don’t face sanction from the mods for deeming me, my family and friends as scum, (who, incidentally, don’t vote for Sinn Fein) then I’ll have to assume that your disgusting views are shared by them. In which case I’ll be making representations to the sites sponsors.

  • RyanAdams

    I never said you did vote for SF. People generically call me a culchie, hun etc do I get offended? No.

    Away off and stop making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Tomas Gorman

    That’s your choice.

    I’ll not be called scum or any other dehumanizing description due to where I was born and raised.

  • Chris Donnelly

    You’ve delivered a series of what can only be depicted as ignorant and bigoted assertions which clearly indicate that you’ve a whole set of problems dealing with the existence of ‘others’ in your society.

    In the past the initial emotion I would have felt would have been one of anger.

    But I’m really more sorry that people like you continue to exist in a twisted little world where you take comfort from categorising catholics as dole-sponging, joyriding scum.

    Heck, you probably think we eat our own kids. And as for those priests, well….

    Truth to be told, you’re clearly a rather sad figure who feels it necessary to come onto a political blog to vent your spleen. You probably regard Neil Lennonas the devil incarnate……

    I don’t know what age of an individual you are, but I would sincerely hope you’re just a misguided youth who still has plenty of time to mature and recognise what a twat you’ve been.

    We can but hope.

  • Driftwood

    Chris Donnelly
    Get off your high horse with all that baggage. You used to support murder,of non-catholics,(except for those evil catholics in a crown uniform) but now feel it expedient to finger wag.
    Tomas Gorman, roll with it. No-one accused your family of anything. It was/is a generalised view of the area. And stereotypes have some truth attached to them. No doubt you have a view on mid County Down horsey set people and our Tory prejudices. I can assure you I only have 1 prejudice on religion, and it applies to every single sect. utter nonsense.

  • Chris Donnelly

    ‘A generalised view of the area’ from a clearly bigoted- probably racist- fool.

    And that ain’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.

  • Mick Fealty


    Driftwood is no longer with us. And anyone who cannot hold their discipline even the face of such appalling provocation will find themselves waiting out the rest of this election campaign without commenting rights.


    The notification software is temporarily on the blink, so if you see something that needs carded let me know on editor@sluggerotoole.com. And if you are carded, don’t write to me complaining, as one lady commenter I recently pinged has.

    You know exactly why you’ve been pinged.

  • RyanAdams

    Chris Donnelly wise up;

    Sorry, you don’t actually know me. My best friend is a catholic, in fact one of her parents is a well known republican. I socialize with catholics from everywhere in Northern Ireland, so No, I don’t have any problem with the nationalist community. : )

    I never once brought religion into this debate; although you just have. I also don’t take comfort in categorizing people with any particular form of crime. Statistics clearly point out there is joy riding going on in some parts of West Belfast, I don’t expect you to believe me, you’ve clearly demonstrated you have rose tinted goggles.

    I think a parcel bomb being sent to Neil Lennon is completly disgusting. I do not believe catholics eat their kids, and priests are a completly different issue and not relevant.

    So, if you are going to insist on insulting me you can least use what ive said rather than spiralling off at a tangent and bringing in issues which are serious and inappropriate.

    And you had the nerve to go off at Driftwood for generalisations.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I’m sure your, ahem, ‘best friend,’ just loves being referred to as ‘scum.’

    By referring to all the people of west Belfast I’m quite sure you realised the Slugger audience would be able to work out the religious affiliation of those who you clearly think so little of.

    Hopefully you’ll reflect on those comments and make more productive contributions in future.

  • RyanAdams

    No actually she believes same and is originally from West Belfast.

    Thanks to social mobility, she got the hell out of there, and shes not looking back. 🙂

  • RyanAdams

    If I wanted to do that, why didn’t I just say it. Fine I will.

    Those Protestants, Up to no good as usual. 🙂

  • separatesix

    People didn’t read what Ryan actually said, it wasn’t some sectarian rant from an outsider, perhaps if they payed attention to Ryan’s post then West Belfast woulden’t have such a PR problem.