Swings and Roundabouts in West Tyrone

How many of you have met a friendly local councillor/ politician in the last few days?

Charming people they are, knocking on your door just to make sure to make you aware that you still have a vote. Sinn Fein were doing the rounds yesterday down this way with Pat Doherty and co knocking doors, asking people if they were on the register etc etc, for the West Tyrone campaign.

Caught a couple of them off guard when I opened the door to them twice at two different houses at either end of the street in the space of 10 minutes. It was the first time I’d ever spoke to either, but anyway… SF is shifting through the gears and will move it up again when Adams comes to Omagh to address a public meeting in the Strule Art’s Centre this Friday (April 16).

Campaign is in full swing, UUP and SF both were quick off the mark with the posters going up. Doherty is sure to win, but SDLP will close the gap to the closest since Joe Byrne last stood in ’97. In that year their share of the vote was 32%, Brid Rodgers let it slip in ’01 and Kieran Deeny’s Omagh hospital campaign completely derailed the SDLP in ’05, eating largely into the SDLP’s base, taking 27.4% in all.

Deeny hasn’t said so yet, but he almost certainly won’t stand this time round. To do so would be nothing short of an expensive ego trip on his behalf. The hospital campaign is all but gone. That is going to leave a big swing that will return to the SDLP . Their share was 23% down in ’05, a lot of that can be attributed to Deeny, but Sinn Fein also took a whopping 39% last time round.

Potential disillusionment, both from ordinary nationalists on one side and more hardline Republicans on the other  (mainly from East Tyrone) with SF’s performance in Stormont, added to the Deeny swing should take the SDLP back to the 30% region.

The Unionist vote will be well split between Hussy (UUP/Tory) and Buchanan (DUP). Alliance is running local lad Michael Bower, he should be good for a few percent, but only a fool would bet against Doherty at this stage.

Saying that, I predict it will be a lot closer than everybody thinks.

About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

3 Responses to Swings and Roundabouts in West Tyrone

  1. alex says:

    First of all the seat is West Tyrone so how would disillusioned Hardliners in East Tyrone have any impact on SF’s vote?, be more likely to be in Mid Ulster.

    Why would disillusionment with SF at Stormont result in people voting for SDLP? they would be more likely not to vote than vote SDLP in my opinion.

    Your story about SF kocking your door to make sure you are on the register says it all really,when if ever has a member of the SDLP ever knocked anyone’s door making sure their vote was secured?I’d guess never.

    I agree if Deeny does not stand then a lot of his nationalist vote should return to SDLP but also surely SF would benefit if not as much.
    Doherty is a hard working politician and covers a lot of ground through his constituency work.
    I’d expect him to romp home.

  2. aldousduke says:

    First off Alex thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

    I take your point on the East Tyrone issue. Of course East Tyrone is in the Mid Ulster Constituency, but the increasing trend of anti-Sinn Fein developments has moved Westwards, althought the trend of discussion groups has not moved west of Galbally (save Fermanagh). I do not expect the disillusioned Sinn Fein voters in that respect to vote at all, unless they decide to vote tactically.

    I don’t expect Doherty to achieve the same success as he did last time round, but the SDLP’s campaign has been very poor in West Tyrone to say the least. I tihnk you’re wrong about the Deeny vote however. The Sinn Fein support stayed tribal last time round, it was the SDLP base that largely lent their support to the hospital campaign. This has helped destroy the SDLP in West Tyrone.

    On the other hand I think you are underestimating the annoyance a lot of ordinary people are feeling about Sinn Fein representatives. This is not an ideological issue, rather as a consequence of Sinn Fein’s complete dominance of West Tyrone politics, from Omagh District Council up to the Assembly and Westminster. The every day anger felt by the ordinary voter with regard to poor roads, education, jobs etc. could become aimed at SF, from the complaints I hear anyway.

    But saying that, traditionally Sinn Fein attract a strong tribal vote in West Tyrone. I don’t think this year will be much different. I would revise my prediction for SDLP to be closer to the low 20s percent wise.

    • alex says:

      Ok, It is a bit of an insult to brand someone who casts their vote for SF as ‘tribal’.
      To give you the benefit of the doubt I take it you mean by it that they are ‘hard’ SF supporters but that too would be flawed because SF have always had a core vote of around 11.000 which has steadily increased over a period of time, sapping support from their chief rivals the SDLP and capturing the younger voters who I’m sure you would’nt call ‘tribal’.

      If as you say a ‘disillusioned’ republican was to vote tactically then who would they vote for?
      The last party they’d vote for is the SDLP, as much as they may dislike SF you can be sure they would dislike the SDLP even more.

      I still think a portion, all be it probably a very small portion of Deeneys vote would benefit SF.

      You state you don’t expect Doherty to be as sucesful this time round, it depends what you mean by success?
      Are you talking actual number of votes or percentage of votes cast.
      I’d guess he may not get as many votes due to voter apathy acrfoss the board and over proliferation of elections in this part of the world but I’d be pretty confident his share of the vote will be maintained if not inproved upon.

      Another point you miss about the demise of the SDLP is the split in the party between Strabane and Omagh, however they will as you say be the biggest beneficiaries of the good doctors vote and should regain his assembly seat next time round if they don’t make a complete hash of it as they did the last assembly election.

      Sf won’t underestimate the electorate, that is why they are the dominant party today, they listen to the electorate and offer them a first class constituency service.

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