Sinn Féin to target four Assembly seats in West Tyrone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sinn Féin will seek to extend their political dominance in West Tyrone in 2011 by attempting to add a fourth MLA to the three Assembly seats they already hold in the constituency.

Chairman of Omagh District Council Declan McAleer (above right) and Chairperson of Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle (above left) are the two new additions for the 2011 campaign, joining Barry McElduff and Pat Doherty (centre). Strabane based MLA Claire McGill will step down at the next Assembly election on May 5.

Cllr McAleer is the current organiser of the party in Tyrone and is employed as advisor to West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty. First elected to Omagh District Council in 2005, holding onto his late father’s (Barney) seat, the former teacher is a qualified lecturer in psychology and is seen as instrumental in the party’s continued electoral dominance.

Despite a slight dip in the number of votes Sinn Féin took in the 2010 Westminster campaign (18,050) from the 2007 Assembly election, where their three candidates took 18,437 first preference votes, they still increased their share of the vote to 48.4%. With confidence sky-high in the West Tyrone constituency since last year’s Westminster election, the party will now seek to convert that lion’s share of the vote into a fourth Assembly seat.

Party members openly spoke of the prospect of running four MLAs in West Tyrone as far back as Pat Doherty’s landslide victory late on May 6 last year. There’s still an element of risk in the move as Sinn Féin’s West Belfast Cumann know only too well. Running five candidates in the 2003 Assembly election proved a stretch too far for even the party’s strongest constituency, allowing Diane Dobbs to snatch a seat. While Sinn Féin may have rectified the situation in 2007, it showed the consequences of moving too early.

DENT

The prospect of a fourth seat for Sinn Féin will also take a dent as this blog understands that the SDLP have finally entered the cold real political reality of West Tyrone politics and will only put forward a single Assembly candidate for 2011.

The SDLP experienced a disaster in 2007, when neither of their three candidates managed to reach the quota 5,923, despite winning 6,018 combined first preference votes. Worryingly for the SDLP, they only managed 5,212 votes in last year’s Westminster election. However they only dropped half a point in terms of vote share, and with voter turnout on the decline, they just might take back a seat by a hair’s breadth.

Meanwhile independent hospital campaigner Kieran Deeny is still mulling over his decision to run for the Assembly again. While not standing for Westminster last year, the GP may be less willing to stand down from his seat on the Stormont Health Committee. He has indicated to this blogger that should he step aside, another cross-community candidate would replace him. No doubt the SDLP would be content to see the back of the hospital campaigner. Their vote has never recovered since he entered the frame in 2003.

On the unionist side, the UUP’s Ross Hussey will take his first stab at the Assembly as the party’s sole candidate for Stormont on May 5. Cllr Hussey’s brother Derek Hussey sat on the NI Forum and the Assembly between 1996 and 2007.

Tom Buchanan and Allan Bresland will be expected to seek a return to Stormont on West Tyrone DUP ticket.

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

One Response to Sinn Féin to target four Assembly seats in West Tyrone

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Sinn Féin to target four Assembly seats in West Tyrone « Aldous Duke -- Topsy.com

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