General Election 2017: Newry and Armagh dominance for Sinn Féin looks set to continue

St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh.
St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh.

Newry and Armagh is an overwhelmingly nationalist constituency which incorporates all of the old Armagh City and District Council area as well as half of Newry and Mourne.

The outgoing MP is Sinn Fein’s Micky Brady who took over from party colleague Conor Murphy in 2015.

The constituency takes in the Bessbrook, Camlough, Crossmaglen and Forkhill areas.

For almost two decades the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon held the seat until his retirement in 2005 allowed Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy to top the poll – ushering in an era of Sinn Fein dominance.

The more moderate nationalist party has been on the back foot ever since and consistently failed to cause Sinn Fein any concern. In 2010, SDLP candidate Dominic Bradley was more than 8,000 votes behind the returning Sinn Fein MP.

Even as an agreed sole unionist candidate in 2010, Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy could not come within 4,000 votes of Sinn Fein’s Murphy.

The 2010 poll was the last general election contested by both main unionist parties, with Kennedy standing on that occasion as the UCUNF (Ulster Conservatives and Unionists: New Force) candidate.

He polled 8,558 votes to William Irwin’s 5,764 for the DUP.

Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer also entered the fray but managed only 656 votes.

In the early to mid-1980s – when the nationalist vote was more evenly split – the seat was held by the now Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson.

At the last Assembly election, the constituency returned three Sinn Fein MLAs, one DUP (William Irwin) and one SDLP (Justin McNulty).

In 1995, the Boundary Commission put forward a plan to scrap the Newry and Armagh parliamentary seat – moving Armagh into a new Dungannon-centred ‘Blackwater’ constituency – but the change was strongly opposed during the local enquiry stage of the process and ultimately rejected.

Candidates for 2017:

• Mickey Brady, Sinn Fein

• Jackie Coade, Alliance

• William Irwin, DUP

• Justin McNulty, SDLP

• Sam Nicholson, UUP

2015 results:

Mickey Brady (SF): 20,488 (41.1%)

D Kennedy (UUP): 16,312 (32.7%)

J McNulty (SDLP): 12,026 (24.1%)

K Nicholl (Alliance): 841 (1.7%)

R Rigby (Cons.): 210 (0.4%)

Electorate: 77,633

Turnout: 50,276 (64.8%)

Combined unionist vote: 33.1%

2010 results:

C Murphy (SF): 18,857 (42%)

D Bradley (SDLP): 10,526 (23.4%)

D Kennedy (Ulster Cons. and Unionists): 8,558 (19.1%)

W Irwin (DUP): 5,764 (12.8%)

W Frazer (Ind.): 656 (1.5%)

A Muir (Alliance): 545 (1.2%)

Electorate: 74,308

Turnout: 45,249 (60.9%)

Combined unionist vote: 33.4%