#AE17 West Tyrone: SF third seat the most vulnerable

West Tyrone includes the towns of Strabane and Omagh. In 2016, the Nationalist parties won four seats with 53% of the vote and transfers from Nationalist-leaning independents, and Unionists won the other two with 33.5%.

2016 result
DUP 8,534 (22.0%, -1.1%) 1 seat
UUP 4,441 (11.4%, +1.0%) 1 seat
Conservative 44 (0.1%)

CISTA 547 (1.4%)
Alliance 494 (1.3%, -0.9%)
Green 458 (1.2%)
Animal Welfare 224 (0.6%)

Sinn Féin 16,304 (42.0%, -7.9%) 3 seats
SDLP 4,287 (11.0%, +2.5%) 1 seat
Independents 3,476 (9.0%)

2017 candidates
@Thomas Buchanan (DUP)
Alicia Clarke (UUP)
Charlie Chittick (TUV)
Roger Lomas (Cons)

Stephen Donnelly (Alliance)
Ciaran McClean (Green)
Barry Brown (CISTA)
Corey French (Ind)

Sorcha McAnespy (Ind)
Roisin McMackin (Ind)
Susan-Anne White (Ind)
@Daniel McCrossan (SDLP)
@Michaela Boyle (SF)
@Declan McAleer (SF)
@Barry McElduff (SF)

Five of the six incumbent MLAs are running for re-election, the exception being the UUP who have a new face. There fifteen candidates in all, a record shared with East Antrim and East Londonderry. SF are defending three seats with 2.5 quotas; the DUP are defending one seat with 1.3 quotas; and the UUP and SDLP are each defending their seats with 0.7 of a quota. In 2016 there were just over 2.0 quotas of votes for Unionist parties, and 3.2 for Nationalist parties (not counting the 0.5 of a quota for independent candidates).

The two Unionist seats therefore look just about safe – in a good year, the DUP could hope to balance two ahead of the UUP, but you need two candidates for that and they have only one.

It’s much more difficult to read the Nationalist side. Both the SDLP and SF start with tough defences, but the two former SDLP candidates from last time have not quit the scene (whereas the one ex-SF candidate is still running). If the vote share does not change at all, perfect balancing from SF could keep three candidates ahead of the SDLP’s one, but this is very difficult to achieve, and so my gut feeling is that SF’s third seat is the most vulnerable.

I am not in the habit of saluting particular candidates here, but I want to give a shout to independent candidate Roisin McMacken, who has four children with autism and learning disabilities and is campaigning in order to highlight the lack of services provided for families in her situation in Northern Ireland (among other issues, but for obvious reasons this was what caught my eye). Roisin, you have all my sympathy and respect; I think it is unlikely that you will win, but I hope you are able to make enough of a fuss to improve things. I am fortunate enough to live in Belgium, where we still have a welfare state, and I am confident that my own children have the services that they need. Please keep fighting.

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