2016 election: How will DUP fare in East Antrim without Sammy Wilson?

Larne, the industrial port which lies on the eastern edge of the overwhelmingly-Protestant East Antrim constituency
Larne, the industrial port which lies on the eastern edge of the overwhelmingly-Protestant East Antrim constituency

Given the colossal lion’s share of votes won by the DUP in the last Assembly election, it is likely to continue as a dominant party in East Antrim after May 5.

However, there is one factor which could cause a dip in the party’s fortunes – the end of so-called ‘double-jobbing’.

DUP veteran Sammy Wilson had been an MLA for the constituency since 2003, and also its MP since 2005.

However, the practice of holding both offices at once has been barred since last month, and in anticipation of this move Mr Wilson’s Assembly seat was instead given to Gordon Lyons.

Without the powerful personal vote brought in by Mr Wilson – an ex-finance and environment minister, who was mooted to be mulling a challenge to Arlene Foster’s succession as DUP leader last year – a key question will be whether the party (which is fielding a trio of candidates) will still draw similar support.

At present the constituency mix is three DUP MLAS, one Alliance, one SF and one UUP. Whilst – based on past performance – it is unlikely the constituency will produce another nationalist/republican MLA, both the UUP and Alliance could be within striking distance of securing an extra seat.

In addition, both UKIP and the TUV could present a challenge to traditional unionists, with the former’s Noel Jordan drawing almost 11 per cent of the vote in the 2015 Westminster elections from virtually a standing start.

2016 CANDIDATES:

• Roy Beggs (UUP)

• Stewart Dickson (Alliance)

• Danny Donnelly (Alliance)

• David Hilditch (DUP)

• Noel Jordan (UKIP)

• Gordon Lyons (DUP)

• Jim McCaw (PUP)

• Margaret McKillop (SDLP)

• Oliver McMullan (SF)

• Maureen Morrow (UUP)

• Dawn Patterson (Green)

• Alastair Ross (DUP)

• Conor Sheridan (Cross-Community Labour Alternative)

• John Stewart (UUP)

• Ruth Wilson (TUV)

RESULTS OF 2011 ELECTION:

Sammy Wilson (DUP) 7,181 (24.7%)

David Hilditch (DUP) 3,288 (11.3%)

Roy Beggs (UUP) 3,042 (10.5%)

Stewart Dickson (Alliance) 2,889 (10%)

Oliver McMullan (SF) 2,369 (8.2%)

Rodney McCune (UUP) 1,851 (6.4%)

Gerardine Mulvenna (Alliance) 1,620 (5.6%)

Alastair Ross (DUP) 1,608 (5.5%)

Ruth Wilson (TUV) 1,346 (4.6%)

Justin McCamphill (SDLP) 1,333 (4.6%)

Gordon Lyons (DUP) (1,321) (4.6%)

Daniel Donnelly (Green) 664 (2.3%)

Steven Moore (BNP) 511 (1.8%)