Election 2017: East Antrim will see DUP defend trio of seats

East Antrim has been a triple-seat stronghold of the DUP ever since 2003.

David Hilditch topped the poll by a massive margin last May and will be feeling secure come polling day on March 2.

Carrickfergus Castle, east Co Antrim

Carrickfergus Castle, east Co Antrim

However, the party’s overall share of first preferences – amounting to 36.1% of all such votes – was down in the constituency compared with the 41.5% share it enjoyed in 2011, or its 45.5% share in 2007.

This is a likely consequence of the departure of high-profile East Antrim veteran Sammy Wilson, who did not stand as MLA last year to concentrate on his MP work.

Meanwhile the UUP fielded three candidates last year, and saw its share of first preference votes rise to 20.2%, up from 16.9% in 2011 when it only fielded two.

With only five seats available now, the DUP is likely to be worried their UUP rivals may gain at their expense – a risk compounded by the fact Alastair Ross, an experienced DUP MLA, is not standing.

Instead DUP Newtownabbey councillor Stephen Ross (no relation) will make a bid to hold his seat for the party.

Unionist dominance of the area is a virtual certainty. But with a surge of support for UKIP’s Noel Jordan last year, Alliance and TUV candidates polling well, and an incumbent Sinn Fein candidate to deal with, East Antrim’s final make up is anybody’s guess.

2017 candidates:

• Roy Beggs (UUP)

• Ricky Best (Independent)

• Stewart Clyde Dickson (Alliance)

• Danny Donnelly (Alliance)

• Alan Dunlop (Cons)

• David Hilditch (DUP)

• Noel Jordan (UKIP)

• Gordon Lyons (DUP)

• Margaret Anne McKillop (SDLP)

• Oliver McMullan (Sinn Fein)

• Dawn Patterson (Green)

• Stephen Ross (DUP)

• Conor Sheridan (Cross-Community Labour Alternative)

• John Stewart (UUP)

• Ruth Wilson (TUV)

2016 results:

• David Hilditch (DUP) 5,906 (18.2%)

• Roy Beggs (UUP) 3,848 (11.9%)

• Gordon Lyons (DUP) 3,472 (10.7%)

• Stewart Dickson (Alliance) 3,115 (9.6%)

• Oliver McMullan (SF) 2,633 (8.1%)

• Alastair Ross (DUP) 2,323 (7.2%)

• Noel Jordan (UKIP) 2,207 (6.8%)

• John Stewart (UUP) 1,985 (6.1%)

• Ruth Wilson (TUV) 1,643 (5.1%)

• D Donnelly (Alliance) 1,632 (5%)

• M McKillop (SDLP) 1,229 (3.8%)

• M Morrow (UUP) 719 (2.2%)

• D Patterson (Green) 693 (2.1%)

• C Sheridan (Cross Community Labour Alternative) 551 (1.7%)

• Jim McCaw (PUP) 455 (1.4%)

Electorate 64,194

Votes cast: 32,744 (51%)