Focus on the West Tyrone by-election

Tomorrow the voters of West Tyrone head back to the polls for the 7th time in 4 years (don’t worry if you are an avid voter, only one year to go until the local elections in May 2019).

Usual rules apply for this by-election, polls close at 10pm with the votes counted afterwards. As you can see from the results above this is a solid Sinn Fein constituency with the party holding a double digit leads over their main rivals.

What is there to look out for?

  • It’s a by-election, don’t focus on total votes, look at the percentage share. Turnout typically falls from a general election. So that 68.2% turnout that you saw last June will be down a good few points.
  • How big will the Sinn Fein win be? Órfhlaith Begley is a new candidate for the party. Unlike Barry McElduff who was well known across the constituency, it’s harder to know will people come out in the same numbers.
  • This is a big test for the SDLP and UUP. They are not likely to win, but if we see their numbers continue to slide that will spell trouble for the two of them.
  • How motivated is Unionism? The McElduff resignation should in theory help motivate Unionists to come out and send a message. The combined Unionist vote was around 32% last June, will that hold or even increase?
  • Can Alliance show further progress out West? They’ve been trying and with a less crowded field of candidates from the “others” category it will be interesting to see if they can make some inroads.

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