Seeley will not stand at the upcoming election

Upper Bann Sinn Fein MLA, Catherine Seeley has announced she will not be seeking re-election.

Speaking about her decision she said;

“Serving the people of Upper Bann as a Sinn Féin MLA over recent months has been a huge honour and privilege.

“After much consideration, I have now decided that I will not be putting my name forward as a candidate in this election. An opportunity has arisen for me to return to teaching and I want to pursue it.

“It has not been an easy decision to make as I have a passion for politics and have enjoyed representing the community, firstly as a councillor and recently as an MLA.

“Sinn Féin has gone from strength to strength in Upper Bann and will have my full support in the upcoming Assembly election, during which I will be acting as an election agent to help maximise the Sinn Féin vote.

“I would like to thank the people of Upper Bann and Sinn Féin for the support they have shown me over the years.


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  • WindowLean

    Interesting. SF have lost two women MLAs with Ruane announcing she’s not standing either.

  • Strange decision, especially given the work that SF put in with her to gain that 2nd seat in Upper Bann.

    I suspect that she jumped rather than having to battle it out with John O’Dowd over would get better area. Also teaching would be better paid than being a SF MLA.

    Will give SDLP hope of perhaps retaking that seat they lost last time.

  • I think SF know they will only have one seat in SD and Hazzard will be protected at all costs

  • Ryan A

    Wouldn’t be so certain. Can’t see Unionists hitting 34% to maintain two seats.

  • They almost hit 30% last time, compared to SF/SDLP both on 31%. Cant see that being enough to save 4 nationalist seats.

  • SDLP supporter

    .That is a real surprise. I thought Ms. Seeley was in for the long haul, being a ‘clean skin’-no paramilitary past- and being reasonably personable and attractive.

    I honestly think that Sinn Fein’s renowned internal discipline, which caused so much chagrin to their opponents like myself over the decades, has broken down considerably under Martin McGuinness’s recent stewardship and this may be not unrelated to the fact that in recent months and years he has not been a well man.

    One thing I (reluctantly) admired about Gerry Adams was, in contrast to some past SDLP leaders, he had an unremitting laser-like focus on internal party organisation, which is what it is most important in developing a political party. Maybe it was his military background.

    I gaped in admiration a couple of mandates back when Gerry Adams replaced all three Sinn Fein MLAs in Newry & Armagh constituency, presumably because they were not performing. In the SDLP there would have been rows for months on end.

    When you don’t hold people to account, you pay the price, as in Strangford constituency where the SDLP has missed a ‘gimme’ seat well within their grasp in at least four elections and mostly against a very decent but relatively weak Alliance incumbent. Now, a tough articulate and able woman (Kellie Armstrong) has come in and has made the seat her own for as long as she wants.

  • mickfealty

    Shame. But it’s a sensible defensive move designed at keeping any possible return of Dolores at bay, and avoid losing higher profile MLA.

  • Ryan A

    Alliance / Green vote will likely transfer in favour of Nationalists there, although it sure will be a tight thing. If it were to be an extraordinary election and one of SDLP/SF over nominate not impossible Alliance could fluke one at SF expense.

  • SDLP supporter

    It’s now or never for Dolores Kelly, Mick, if she runs. On a ‘religious background’ basis Upper Bann is over 40% Catholic, though turnout is relatively poor. Even so, in 2016 Sinn Fein did very well in balancing their two candidates with John O’Dowd edging Dolores out on the last count by 178 votes and clearly taking a chance-which paid off-with his substantial personal vote. SF between their two candidates got 24.9% on the first count and Dolores got 9.5%, but Dolores picked up a further 2.1% on transfers, mostly from Alliance. She’ll get nothing from UUP. She may get a couple of percentage points from UUP, who look as if they may lose a seat, but could have up to 5% over

    But, most important of all, she needs to increase the core SDLP vote and get someone good in her corner, who knows how to run elections. Someone like Tom Kelly, who lives not too far away in Poyntzpass.

  • SDLP supporter

    Honestly can’t see Alliance taking a seat in South Down with a starting base of 5.4% got in May 2016. Also, SDLP and Sinn Fein won’t over-nominate: two candidates each. But, it will be tight for the last seat.

  • AntrimGael

    There’s a few Shinners running for cover with the drop down to 5 seats AND with the knowledge that Nationalists are still not happy at their under performance in Stormont. Sinn Fein are going to lose seats and they are going to be battling for the last one in a few constituencies. She seemed to be a very capable politician but young people like her are probably asking themselves “Why would I want to remain in a political system that is going nowhere?”

  • Granni Trixie

    I do not wish to deflect from the points you raise or go off on one but really – What’s ‘attractive’ got to do with anything? A slip of the tongue I trust?
    It would take more than looks to persuade many of us to vote for certain people.

  • Granni Trixie

    I always assumed that Ruanne was on the way out after she assumed the role of Speaker.

  • Teddybear

    O’Dowd should breathe a sigh of relief. While no fan of SF, I often found O’Dowd intelligent and articulate and non sectarian. He was elected by the skin of a whisker last time.

    It seems SF have mitigated the risk of unsightly musical chairs by ensuring each of their MLA’s know their pecking order.

    Will other parties be as disciplined?

    Also last but not least, does anyone know if Jonathan Bell will stand as an Indy or at all?

  • Mirrorballman

    Sf seem to be getting their candidates in order very quickly. Will the other parties be able to do the same without problems internally affecting their campaigns. Doubt it…

  • larry hughes

    Don’t blame the girl, she could at least hope to make a difference teaching.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Definite losses all round for most parties but it will be interesting if SF can improve their tally on last time.

  • mjh

    Actually she got 72 from UUP (Savage) which may not sound much, but there was still another UUP candidate still in the race.

    Where there is no other unionist or cross-community candidate available UUP do give more significant transfers to the SDLP. If last year’s vote had been on a 5 seat basis and the votes had been cast in the same way Beattie (UUP) would have been eliminated rather than elected. As a result Dobson (UUP) would have had a much bigger surplus, but it would not have been distributed until only SDLP and the two SFs were left in the race. This would have given Kelly some 550 extra transfers (based on UUP average transfer patterns in 2014), while SF would have taken under 100 between them.

    So moving to 5 seats would have not only have cost the UUP a seat, it would have most likely switched one of SF’s seats to the SDLP.

    Only if the SF vote (including transfers) was balanced to within 200 votes would they have held the second seat. The two SF’s were 972 apart on the final stage last time.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As I understand it there were six seats so the competition was not between SDLP and Alliance as such: the last seat was taken by Philip Smith of the UUP, who finished about 600 votes ahead of Joe Boyle.

  • SDLP supporter

    Oh, for God’s sake Granni, wise up, given the day that’s in it. A candidate can be ‘attractive’, whether male or female, and to male or female, heterosexual or homosexual. Speaking as a straight male, I found Obama to be ‘attractive’, Trump to be ‘repulsive’, and similarly for Thatcher and Shirley Williams. Nothing to do with physical appearance.

  • mickfealty

    Strangford? A Nat seat is gone for good. All Joe ever seemed to do was motivate Unionists to transfer harder within.

    Another party might have done it, but not the SDLP. Too loose, fragmented and no story. Now the quota rises, it’s just too far.

  • Brendan Heading

    I don’t think this is anything to do with internal party matters. SF spent some time preparing her and went to a lot of trouble to get her elected. I think Catherine has made a genuine career decision here for her own reasons, and had there not been a snap election I suspect there would have been a co-option.

  • Brendan Heading

    I’m not sure why you think O’Dowd needs to breathe a sigh of relief. If SF can maintain the same performance as last time, they should retain both of these seats fairly easily on SDLP transfers, which should put them ahead of Doug Beattie.

  • Granni Trixie

    Though I did read that SF were upping their ‘industrial wage’ I always did think that not getting the rate for the MLA job with all of its obvious responsibilities was likely to bring about greater turnover in candidates. I imagine a teaching career pays better financially for SF people who are after all only human.

  • Brendan Heading

    I very much doubt that money is anything to do with this. Nobody walks into being an SF candidate with their eyes closed about the salary situation.

  • Gopher

    Not quite true you will find the UUP transfers were the only reason Joe got close in 2007, in 2011 his vote significantly decreased before you can blame anyone and in 2016 Independent unionist Jimmy Menagh queered the unionist pitch along with UKIP and TUV giving the impression of a contest for Joe

    I know there is great sentimentalism for the SDLP and the left on this forum but unionists in Strangford are not responsible for their failure to get a seat for that they need to look at themselves and move with the times.

  • Ryan A

    Theoretically they shouldn’t overnominate but the vast geography of South Down makes it a patchwork of localities even more complex than FST. If you look at both SDLP / SF in recent elections they’ve always ran someone with a Downpatrick/Lecale base, a Newcastle/Drumaness/Ballyward/Castlewellan/Rathfriland base and someone with a Crotilieve/Newry base. Worth noting that 5.4% was a sizeable rise from both 2011 and 2015 in what was a rather poor year for Alliance across NI. It could be as simple as getting ahead of the poorest performing of the DUP/UUP and frankly on the basis of last May it’s still a relatively target seat for them.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I think your comment would be more appropriately addressed to “SDLP supporter” than to me.

    But examining the data, I think there is sufficient to contradict your view. The problem is that there is only 17% of Catholics in Strangford. Joe Boyle has persuaded two thirds of them to vote or transfer to him. The rest appear to be giving their first preferences to Alliance.

    That is it: there are no other votes coming his way. What little vote he has he has got out in full, but that still left him 600 votes behind the last UUP candidate.

    Only the construction of a new housing estate will create a full SDLP/Nationalist quota in Strangford.

  • Ryan A

    Local factors & boundary changes in 2011. SDLP vote was greater in Carryduff which was moved out and a local selection row for Down Council (standard SDLP) was going on at the same time in Rowallane where new wards were moved in.

  • Ryan A

    Also worth noting you SDLP ones love a selection row to keep things interesting!!! 😉

  • Brendan Heading

    to be fair to the SDLP they seem to have made some progress getting to grips with this problem. Eastwood successfully saw off the selfish elements in their West Tyrone association.

  • Granni Trixie

    I know what you mean – I know loads of people who work for parties or are representatives – motivated by convictions not the salary or because it is ‘just a job’. However I am making a reasonable,general point about the system operating uniquely in SF and which may or may not be a factor in this particular case.

  • AntrimGael

    Chris Donnolly made that point in today’s Irish News. He more or less said that Sinn Fein need to modernise and do away with the restricted wage to attract a better standard of candidate and/or advisor.

  • AntrimGael

    She taught in the Boys Model in North Belfast and was very highly regarded as a teacher……before the bigots drive her out.

  • Gopher

    I would agree Carryduff is more Belfast in spirit than parts of Down. So what nominally looks like an increase in voters if you use Gerry Kelly’s yardstick is in practical terms of no great value to a socially conservative sentimentally left and nationalist party as demonstrated in 2011 and 2016. It also must be noted what sounds great in Derry does not always reasonate with a more discerning electorate in the East.

  • Gingray

    “with a more discerning electorate in the East”

    Ha ha ha, indeed, why don’t you say what you really mean 😉

    Themmins are not as smart as us …

  • Gopher

    I think my meaning is quite clear and the growth of parties like Allliance and Greens reflects that.

  • Gingray

    Not that clear, particularly with an example that is patently false – Alliance got 11.3% in 1979, sliding ever since.

    So naw Gopher, I don’t buy it. Your comments remind me of the sneering, snotty nosed north down arrogance, that only those in the civilised east are capable of non sectarian voting, while those less discerning, uncultured Catholics in the west are incapable of expressing such sophisticated views.


  • Gopher

    And why why was it Joe Boyle was not elected?

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Well they have had three weeks to prepare.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I would have assumed that the UUP would just run two candidates….if they do…just looking at this as a rerun….I don’t see how Dolores Kelly has any chance. You would have two UUP ahead of her throughout most likely picking up transfers from all the minor unionists. Only when the Alliance are eliminated does Kelly get a boost. I don’t see how that could ever be enough to put her above the Unionists or Sinn Fein. She needs to be above the second SF candidate to knock out the second UUP candidate or vice versa.

    Unless i am missing something there’s no chance

  • mjh

    Lionel, the critical difference having 5 seats would make is the effect that the higher quota has on transfers – this means that looking at the votes in the later stages of the 6 seat count can be misleading.

    The biggest impact on the UUP would be felt in the transfers from the TUV and UKIP, which contributed 1923 to the UUP last year, when all the other unionist candidates had been eliminated or had reached quota. In five seater there would also have been one DUP candidate available to share those transfers.

    This would mean that Beattie would have been eliminated leading to a big surplus for the remaining UUP candidate from which the SDLP would have gained far more than SF.

  • Teddybear

    Not so. O’Dowd looked likely to lose his seat in 2016 and he only got in by a whisker. Their 2 quotas in a 6 seater was by skin of teeth. No chance of 2 quotas in a 5 seater. Seeley has stepped aside to save O’Dowd.

  • Teddybear

    If they do that they will attract middle class people who won’t work on the ground as much SF do already.

    I often believe in what Harold Wilson said about Labour being a crusade or it’s nothing. The same should be applied to any political party. Once a party becomes a career path that’s the beginning of the end esp for parties of a social consciousness bent.

    UK Labour is a case in point

  • Lionel Hutz

    Thank you very much MJH. Im really a novice at reading these things.

    I suppose the big questions then are…

    Can SF balance the ticket with presumably a much less well known candidate.

    Can Dolores Kelly get close to her vote again? I’d say 8 months away would hurt a candidate.

  • Gingray

    For much the same reason a Unionist did not get elected in West Belfast – the population may be there, but not every person in that community likes the party or candidate they have to choose from.

    Fairly normal behaviour. Added to this – have a wee look at census table DC2117NI_N06000016 – Strangford by religion brought up in by age. Over 60, those brought up catholic account for 13%, while under 40 it is 20%.

    Now, here comes the maths – if you use the Ipsos-mori age turnout profile from the May 2015 election, but scale it proportionately for the May 2016 election and apply to census data (accounting for an offset of 5 more years) you would have an expected Catholic vote of 14-15%. Think the nats polled 10-11%, so its down, but not that much when you realise that catholic turnout was around 10-15% lower than protestant (other turnout was around 20% lower).

    What I wouldn’t assume or state is that people in the east are more discerning – that just smacks of a nasty superiority complex not reflected in the facts.

  • mjh

    Even if SF managed to balance their first preference votes significantly better than last time (to get both candidates within a couple of hundred of each other) no party machine has control over transfers. Yes they could be lucky – but the chances are small.

    I would have thought that Kelly’s disadvantage in being away for eight months would not be massive – and would anyway be cancelled out by Seeley’s retirement.

    A far bigger factor will be the wider political dynamics. Will the general NI swing between nationalist parties favour SF or the SDLP?

    Also a substantial swing towards the UUP from the DUP (of about 2.1% upwards) would eliminate Kelly, putting two SF in (unless offset by a swing to SDLP from SF, of course).

    Just for the record a 3% swing or above from DUP to UUP would put the UUP on 2 and DUP on 1.

  • Brendan Heading

    Not so. O’Dowd looked likely to lose his seat in 2016 and he only got in by a whisker. Their 2 quotas in a 6 seater was by skin of teeth. No chance of 2 quotas in a 5 seater.

    A few points. Firstly, to be slightly pedantic, SF did not win two quotas. Their two candidates were both elected under quota following the exclusion of the SDLP. O’Dowd was elected over 1000 votes under quota.

    At the end of the last count in 2016, there were 17234 votes between the three nationalist candidates, which is 2.64 quotas. Under five seats, this would have been 2.26 quotas.

    Based on this information, you are effectively suggesting that the SDLP candidate will beat the second SF candidate. That’s a brave prediction to make given that the SDLP have never done this before. It’s much more likely that SF will successfully keep ahead of the SDLP, get their vote out and secure the SDLP transfers which will allow them to beat the second UUP candidate.

    Seeley has stepped aside to save O’Dowd.

    I happen to be aware from my own impeccable sources that Seeley’s decision to step down is a personal one.

    But even leaving that aside, this isn’t how it works. Seeley is an obvious vote winner, no political party will push out someone like that; vote management, by allocating additional regions within the constituencies to shore up the less popular candidate, generally works and holds open the prospect of winning two seats.

  • Teddybear

    So would Seeley have resigned if there was no RHI scandal? I doubt it. It seems she was made to fall in her sword

  • Gopher

    Alliance seem to get elected in Strangford and not in West Belfast

  • Gingray

    Indeed. The vast majority of Alliance voters are Protestants in seats where Protestants form a large majority of the population.

    As Catholic population increases in a constituency to near parity, Protestants start voting Unionist. North Belfast, Upper Bann, East Derry are all examples of this.

    Basically the discerning voter chooses Alliance where nationalism is no threat, but retreat to sectarian lines when they are.

    So perhaps, rather than the people of the east being morally better, they just hide their sectarianism behind a superior facade that comes tumbling down.

  • Brendan Heading

    So would Seeley have resigned if there was no RHI scandal? I doubt it.

    Why do you doubt it ? It’s not unknown – SF West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann resigned two months ago to become a SpAd.

    It seems she was made to fall in her sword

    No it doesn’t.