2016 election: West Belfast sees anti-austerity party and unionists vie for seat

The 'International Wall' on the Falls Road in the Belfast West constituency
The 'International Wall' on the Falls Road in the Belfast West constituency

Only 30 years ago, the SDLP was almost as strong in West Belfast as Sinn Fein.

Latterly, however, Sinn Fein has been overwhelmingly dominant in the constituency, both in Westminster and Stormont elections.

In 2011, it took five of the six Assembly seats, as it had done in 2007.

Alex Attwood was the sixth seat both times, and the SDLP man’s seat has a fight to stay in now.

Sinn Fein will also struggle to repeat its performance last time of five seats.

There is a chance that the loyalist Frank McCoubrey for the DUP will clinch a seat, as the now MEP Diane Dodds did for the party in 2003, scraping through on a late count by a handful of votes ahead of the runner up.

The greater risk to the fifth Sinn Fein seat, however, comes from Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit.

He performed surprisingly strongly in last year’s general election, picking up 7,000 votes, or almost 20% of the total. This put a significant dent in the MP Paul Maskey’s majority and placed him far ahead of Mr Attwood.

The absence of Paul Maskey in the running this year is a further hindrance to SF, but his brother Alex is standing, a former Lord Mayor with a high profile. Fra and Jennifer McCann are also well established.

Other candidates include Jemima Higgins (Alliance), Conor Campbell (Workers Party) and Ellen Murray (Green). Gareth Martin for the UUP is the most likely of the less prominent candidates to get 1,000 votes.

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2016 CANDIDATES:

• Alex Attwood (SDLP)

• Conor Campbell (Workers Party)

• Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit Alliance)

• Jemima Higgins (Alliance)

• Gareth Martin (UUP)

• Alex Maskey (SF)

• Fra McCann (SF)

• Jennifer McCann (SF)

• Rosie McCorley (SF)

• Frank McCoubrey (DUP)

• Ellen Murray (Green)

• Pat Sheehan (SF)

RESULTS OF 2011 ELECTION:

Paul Maskey (SF) 5,343 (15.4%)

Jennifer McCann (SF) 5,239 (15.1%)

Fra McCann (SF) 4,481 (12.9%)

Sue Ramsey (SF) 4,116 (11.9%)

Alex Attwood (SDLP) 3,765 (10.9%)

Pat Sheehan (SF) 3,723 (10.7%)

Brian Kingston (DUP) 2,587 (7.5%)

Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit Alliance) 1,661 (4.8%)

Bill Manwaring (UUP) 1,471 (4.2%)

Colin Keenan (SDLP) 802 (2.3%)

John Lowry (Workers Party) 586 (1.7%)

Pat Lawlor (Socialist Party) 384 (1.1%)

Dan McGuinness (Alliance) 365 (1.1%)

Brian Pelan (Ind.) 122 (0.4%)