The Political Year Gone By: What I got right & wrong in 2015

Okay it is the end of the year and one of us typically produces a piece looking over the past year and the notable political moments that defined our year. However, I wanted to change tack and look back over some of my predictions to see what I got right, but just as important, what I got wrong.

Election 2015

Lets start off with the 2015 general election. During the campaign the Irish News asked me to give some predictions for some of the key constituencies in Northern Ireland and who would emerge as the winner.

I wrongly predicted that Michelle Gildernew would hold Fermanagh/South Tyrone and I even said on Talkback that with her experience of dealing with pacts that she could end up seeing off Tom Elliott.

Another UUP victory that I didn’t see coming was Danny Kinahan in South Antrim and even argued that the sitting MP, Willie McCrea could hold the seat with a slightly bigger majority. (Sorry Danny, but I got this one wrong.)

On my side, I did get Alasdair McDonnell holding South Belfast right and I accurately punted that Nigel Dodds would easily see off Gerry Kelly in North Belfast. Likewise, I accurately predicted that Gavin Robinson would defeat Naomi Long, though it was closer than I thought.

Another victory was Mickey Brady in Newry and Armagh, as some folks thought that the SDLP could eat into his vote at this election, but the Sinn Fein vote held up.

SDLP Leadership

On this one, I kick myself for at the start of the campaign buying into the analysis that it would be difficult to unseat Alasdair McDonnell and didn’t give enough credence to Colum’s ability to win people over and build a coalition. On Evening Extra during the first week of the campaign, I posited that McDonnell could win narrowly, which of course, turned out to be nonsense, as Eastwood took 56% of the vote.

Whilst I did come round to Eastwood mid way through the campaign, I was slow off the blocks on the SDLP leadership contest.

Executive Collapsing

26th August 2015, Mike Nesbitt announced he was pulling out of the Executive, following the murder of Kevin McGuigan. This set off a crisis that I thought and predicted would pull down the Executive by Halloween as the DUP would surely have to follow suit at some point.

However, Peter Robinson managed to pull something out of the bag with the rotating resignations and the Fresh Start agreement.

DUP Leadership and Sinn Fein signing up to a welfare deal

I didn’t know when it would happen, but I always believed that Sinn Fein would have to sign up to some sort of deal on welfare before the next election. It was never going to be in the party’s interests for the Executive to fall, so it was just going to be the case of agreeing a deal. However, I didn’t punt that the DUP would have done so well out of it.

The deal over welfare was always linked to the DUP leadership. I had punted before the petition of concern over the Stormont House Agreement that once the DUP had won back East Belfast, that Peter Robinson would make some announcement about his future. Yet, with the delay over a resolution, it would be November before Robinson left the stage as DUP leader.

Another thing here, I punted rightly, that there would be no ballot for the party leadership, despite some people in the commentariat talking up the prospects of one happening. Though I was surprised at who the eventual leader was.

There you have it, some of the punts I made in politics in 2015.

Any surprises for you lot during the year?

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs