Election battlegrounds #LE19 : Botanic

Botanic DEA in the centre of Belfast is a real ‘Group of Death’ and with over 2500 new voters coming onto the register since 2014 it adds some extra unpredictability to this competition. 

In 2014 there were 4 unionist candidates that garnered 1.9 quotas between them and the Sinn Féin and the SDLP picked up just short of 1.9 quotas.

The parties most confident of taking a seat here are those standing 2 candidates. That is Alliance (Emmet McDonough-Brown and Micky Murray) Sinn Féin (Caitríona Mallaghan and Deirdre Hargey) and the DUP (Graham Craig and Tracy Kelly).

So with Sinn Féin, Alliance and the DUP all reasonably assured of a seat what about the last two places?

This is a big target seat for the Greens and sitting MLA Clare Bailey missed out by just 127 votes to Graham Craig (then UUP) in 2014. Áine Groogan a case worker for the Green Party leader is well placed to take a seat and has been steadily building up a profile here recently. 

The SDLP are standing Gary McKeown who will have to fend off a challenge from former SDLP councillor Declan Boyle who is standing as an Independent. Boyle is one of three former SDLP councillors seeking re-election in Belfast. They all resigned after being suspended for abstaining from a council vote condemning the harassment of women by anti-abortion activists in 2017.

With Craig leaving to join the DUP in 2016 Richard Kennedy has a difficult ask in taking a seat back for the UUP. The Ulster Unionists polled 0.51 quota in 2014.

John Andrew Hiddleston (TUV), Ian Shanks (PUP) and Billy Dickson (SBU) and their transfers will be crucial to the second DUP runner here. 

Paddy Lynn is standing for the Workers Party. Paul Loughran is one of 8 candidates for People before Profit that will provide them with a good baseline of their support across the city having only stood Gerry Carroll in the Black Mountain DEA in 2014. 

The last two seats should fall to a toss-up between the Green Party, the SDLP and the DUP’s second runner. However Alliance will be hoping to keep their second runner ahead of the Greens and a Declan Boyle impact on the SDLP could upset the apple cart too. If the DUP don’t balance their first preferences the UUP could still have a chance here by staying ahead of the other unionist candidates through the counts. That would require getting over the half quota on first count though which will be a tall order.