So will next week’s poll see the breaking of more glass ceilings for female representation in the Assembly?
Time will tell. But as we political nerds have fun tallying the possible final outcomes for political parties we should also look at potential gender outcomes.
Surprisingly Derry has only one female candidate placed to be in with a shout. Elisha McCallion the former Mayor of Derry and Strabane has a good profile in the city and has a reputation as a grafter on the ground. In a battle royale between SF, PBP and the DUP for the last two seats it will come down to the strength of her first preferences before the transfers start to be distributed (presuming her running mate Raymond McCartney gets a better first preference).
West Tyrone (2)
There are 2 unionist quotas here and newcomer Alicia Clarke should successfully defend the seat of her predecessor Ross Hussey. Sinn Féin will be fighting hard to take 3 seats on 2.5 quotas which will take careful balancing on their part. Michaela Boyle is their candidate in the old Strabane Council end of the constituency and she should be returned given the strength of the Sinn Féin vote in that area alone.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone (2/3)
Arlene Foster and Michelle Gildernew are ‘home in a boat’. Sinn Féin has put the candidate problems they had here last year behind them and are fielding Belleek native Jemma Dolan who previously worked for Martina Anderson in the European Parliament. Sinn Féin will definitely get 2 seats and on a good day both Dolan and Gildernew will get returned with their running mate Sean Lynch.
Mid Ulster (2/3)
The UUP’s Sandra Overend appears to be safe as does Sinn Féin’s new leader in the north Michelle O’Neill. Similar to FST republicans are going for 3 seats and it could come down to a battle between Linda Dillon and Patsy McGlone for the last seat (depending on how SF balances their candidates).
East Derry (1/2)
Claire Sugden took a bit of flak as the wheels of the Executive started to come off before Christmas but I still think that she has emerged relatively unscathed and should be safe with Alliance and UUP transfers. Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald and Cathal O’hOisin could potentially squeeze past John Dallat if Gerry Mullan (Independent) reduces the SDLP first count significantly. If only one SF candidate is elected it is hard to call given the closeness of split between the two runners in 2016.
South Antrim (1)
The DUP’s Pam Cameron should be returned. The DUP should lose a seat here but it does seem to be the case that Trevor Clarke will be the faller given the placing of their 3 candidates last year.
Newry & Armagh (1)
Megan Fearon will be re-elected. Sinn Féin will find it tough to return 3 MLAs on 2.5 quotas but Fearon was their best performing candidate here in 2016.
Upper Bann (3)
Carla Lockhart and Jo-Anne Dobson were the top DUP and UUP performers here last year and will both be re-elected. There are 2 nationalist seats and Dolores Kelly will be seeking to leap-frog the second Sinn Féin runner Nuala Toman via transfers from the Alliance and the UUP. Another nail-biter awaits.
South Down (2)
Both the SDLP and Sinn Féin had 1.9 quotas here last year so I’d expect both Sinead Ennis and Sinead Bradley to be returned.
Kellie Armstrong (Alliance) and Michelle McIlveen (DUP) should both be safe.
Lagan Valley (1)
A straight fight between the DUP and UUP for 4 seats should see one of either Brenda Hale or Jenny Palmer returned.
West Belfast (1)
Órlaithí Flynn is the only female candidate that can take a seat. Sinn Féin are fighting for 4 from a 2016 base of 3.3 quotas. However Flynn is running in Jennifer McCann’s old stomping ground and should therefore be returned close to the top of the list once the first preferences are counted.
East Belfast (2)
Joanne Bunting of the DUP and Naomi Long of Alliance are well placed to meet the quota again after strong 2016 outings.
North Belfast (2/3)
Gerry Kelly is the only cert to be returned. Those scrapping it out for the other places will include Carál Ní Chuilín, Nicola Mallon, Paula Bradley and Nuala McAllister. A tough one to call.
South Belfast (2/3/4)
Claire Hanna of the SDLP is probably safest placed here. If Claire Bailey, Emma Little-Pengelly and Paula Bradshaw were to be returned too – which is quite possible – it would make this the constituency with the most female MLAs.
To conclude we are either going to have an Assembly with 24 women (26.6%), 31 women (34%) or somewhere in between. Given that the outgoing Assembly was 28% female we should improve upon that and there is a fair possibility that at least 30% of the MLAs going back up to Stormont will be female. Whether they get an opportunity to take their seats or not is another matter entirely.