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?