For those looking for my take on the 18 by elections taking place in Northern Ireland on Thursday it’s in today’s Irish Independent… Almost everyone is trying to unseat parties with whom they already share power in the Northern Ireland Executive.
In summary, I don’t think FST will be the story this year. However many friends he has who are nationalist, Tom Elliott won’t have many nationalist friends actually vote for him.
The scum comments and his refusal to do what the DUP would do and go to a GAA match will motivate a coalescence around Michelle Gildernew.
We can expect North Belfast to be a win for Nigel Dodds, but even with Gerry Kelly’s shark jump act with gerrymandered figures and old nationalist style ‘remember you’re a Catholic’ rhetoric we’ll watch to see what effect (if any) it has on the electorate there.
I suspect that it only be East Belfast and South Belfast are in the mix this time, but we’ll be keeping an eye on Newry and Armagh for signs of vital life in the SDLP, not least since the Portadown Times claims that ‘private polling’ suggests the party is flatlining in neighbouring Upper Bann.
I’d argue that without real political arguments, the most closely fought constituencies have been tribal (Fermanagh and South Tyrone), sectarian (North Belfast), personal (East Belfast) or downright nasty (South Belfast).
For a full constituency rundown check out the full copy on the Indo..