General Election 2017: South Antrim UUP attempt to fight off DUP

Belfast International Airport
Belfast International Airport

South Antrim has been a bellwether of unionism, tracking the ups and downs of the UUP and the DUP, for years.

The constituency, which includes both large conurbations such as Newtownabbey and Antrim and large swathes of prime agricultural land is a mixture of traditional rural Ulster and more liberal metropolitan values.

That is reflected in the two lead candidates this time – the UUP’s Danny Kinahan and the DUP’s Paul Girvan – just as it was in the last election when Mr Kinahan narrowly defeated the-then DUP MP William McCrea by 1,000 votes.

The seat had previously see-sawed between the UUP’s David Burnside and the Rev McCrea.

In the last election, Mr Kinahan made much of the Rev McCrea living outside the constituency.

That weapon has now been removed from his armoury with his opponent being a veteran former Ballyclare councillor and now MLA for the area.

It is a classic choice between liberal and traditional unionism: the gay marriage-supporting UUP MP who is happy to be pictured at local GAA clubs up against the Free Presbyterian socially conservative DUP man.

The DUP are confident, with some senior figures believing that Mr Girvan will win.

But Mr Kinahan has incumbency on his side and is well-liked across all parties, making him far more likely to attract tactical votes.

There is a significant Sinn Fein, Alliance and SDLP vote in South Antrim, but this is firmly a two-horse race and one which is likely to be among the closest contests of the entire election in Northern Ireland.

Candidates for 2017:

• Paul Girvan, DUP

• Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein

• Neil Kelly, Alliance

• Danny Kinahan, UUP

• Roisin Lynch, SDLP

2015 general election:

Danny Kinahan (UUP): 11,942 (32.7%)

W McCrea (DUP): 10,993(30.1%)

D Kearney (SF): 4,699 (12.9%)

N Kelly (Alliance): 3,576 (9.8%)

R Lynch (SDLP): 2,990 (8.2%)

R Cairns (TUV): 1,908 (5.2%)

A Dunlop (Cons.): 415 (1.1%)

Electorate: 67,425

Turnout: 36,734 (54.5%)

Combined unionist vote: 69.1%

2010 general election:

William McCrea (DUP): 11,536 (33.9%)

Reg Empey (Ulster Cons. and Unionists): 10,353 (30.4%)

M McLaughlin (SF):4,729 (13.9%)

M Byrne (SDLP): 2,955 (8.7%)

A Lawther (Alliance):

2,607 (7.7%)

M Lucas (TUV): 1,829 (5.4%)

Electorate: 63,054

Turnout: 34,143 (54.1%)

Combined unionist vote: 69.7%