2016 election: It could be a 50-50 men-women split in Upper Bann

'The Cut' in Banbridge, County Down, within the Upper Bann constituency
'The Cut' in Banbridge, County Down, within the Upper Bann constituency

Three out of the six Upper Bann seats could be filled by women when the winners are announced – and interesting permutations are emerging before a vote is cast.

The mostly likely of the six female candidates to succeed is the ambitious Carla Lockhart (DUP). She caused quite a stir when the constituency association selected her at the expense of sitting member Stephen Moutray, who seemed a banker for the nomination. Lockhart’s running mate Sydney Anderson is also a safe bet.

Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson is likely to retain her seat, although the party’s decision to run three hopefuls for the two seats they usually win could complicate matters. Retired Army Captain Doug Beattie MC and Kyle Savage – son of the late George Savage, who served two terms as an MLA - complete the trio. Neither can be ruled out.

As the count progresses, the spotlight will focus on the battle between Catherine Seeley (Sinn Fein) and Dolores Kelly (SDLP) in the quest for the nationalist-republican vote. Despite SDLP’s diminishing returns, Kelly invariably edges in. But Sinn Fein, whose John O’Dowd topped the Upper Bann poll in 2011, will throw everything at a constituency where they are convinced they can pick up an extra seat.

The other two women in the fray – Emma Hutchinson (NI Labour Rep) and Sophie Long (PUP) – are unlikely to make a significant impact.

Upper Bann isn’t a happy hunting ground for the minor parties, although Harry Hamilton increased Alliance’s vote last time. David Jones should pull in quite a few votes for UKIP, and Roy Ferguson will fight hard for TUV.

Transfers will figure highly in the final countdown, with SF having attracted plenty of first preferences – but SF’s second candidate Jonny McGibbon failed to mop up sufficient late preferences in 2011, after O’Dowd stormed home. Kelly made it with 440 votes to spare.

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2016 CANDIDATES:

• Sydney Anderson (DUP)

• Doug Beattie (UUP)

• Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP)

• Roy Ferguson (TUV)

• Harry Hamilton (Alliance)

• Emma Hutchinson (NI Labour Representation Committee)

• David Jones (UKIP)

• Dolores Kelly (SDLP)

• Martin Kelly (Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol)

• Simon Lee (Green)

• Carla Lockhart (DUP)

• Sophie Long (PUP)

• Stephen McCarroll (Ind.)

• Ian Nickels (Cons.)

• John O’Dowd (SF)

• Kyle Savage (UUP)

• Catherine Seeley (SF)

RESULTS OF 2011 ELECTION:

John O’Dowd (SF) 6,649 (15.7%)

Sydney Anderson (DUP) 5,854 (13.8%)

Stephen Moutray (DUP) 5,645 (13.3%)

Johnny McGibbon (SF) 4,879 (11.5%)

Dolores Kelly (SDLP) 4,846 (11.4%)

Sam Gardiner (UUP) 3,676 (8.7%)

Colin McCusker (UUP) 3,402 (8%)

Joanne Dobson (UUP) 3,348 (7.9%)

Harry Hamilton (Alliance) 1,979 (4.7%)

David Vance (TUV) 1,026 (2.4%)

Sheila McQuaid (Alliance) 786 (1.9%)

Barbara Trotter (UKIP) 272 (0.6%)