Election 2017: Foyle faces fierce five-way fight for four seats

Something has got to give in the Foyle constituency where veteran socialist Eamonn McCann faces off against the two largest nationalist parties in what looks likely to be a ferocious five-way battle over four seats.

The unionist vote in Londonderrry remains strong enough to return a single candidate. The DUP’s Gary Middleton, having comfortably seen off the challenge of both the UUP’s Julia Kee and the independent unionist Maurice Devenney last time around, will be confident of retaining his seat.

A view of the Peace Bridge and the Guildhall in Londonderry, a key nationalist battleground in the forthcoming election

A view of the Peace Bridge and the Guildhall in Londonderry, a key nationalist battleground in the forthcoming election

That leaves People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann squaring off against two candidates each from the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

It would be foolhardy to write McCann off – he has increased his first preferences by around 1,000 in successive elections from 2007 onwards – but he can expect a much tougher contest this year.

Coupled with the reduction in seats from six to five comes the decision of both the SDLP and Sinn Fein to opt for the safer strategy of fielding just two candidates apiece.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is joined by Mark H Durkan as the once-dominant nationalist party seeks to retain parity with Sinn Fein in Foyle, having each failed to get three candidates over the line in 2016.

Gerard Diver lost out for the SDLP last time around while Sinn Fein’s Maeve McLaughlin lost her seat.

Former mayor Elisha McCallion, a young candidate unconnected to the Troubles, steps in in place of Martin McGuinness and is joined for Sinn Fein by Raymond McCartney, who polled 3,198 first preferences last time.

2017 candidates:

• Stuart Canning (Conservatives)

• Colm Cavanagh (Alliance)

• Shannon Downey (Greens)

• Mark H Durkan (SDLP)

• Colum Eastwood (SDLP)

• Julia Kee (UUP)

• John Lindsay (Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance)

• Elisha McCallion (Sinn Fein)

• Eamonn McCann (People Before Profit)

• Raymond McCartney (Sinn Fein)

• Arthur McGuinness (Independent)

• Gary Middleton (DUP)

2016 results:

• Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) 5,037 (12.7%)

• Colum Eastwood (SDLP) 5,000 (12.6%)

• Gary Middleton (DUP) 4,737 (11.9%)

• Mark H. Durkan (SDLP) 4,197 (10.6%)

• Eamonn McCann (People Before Profit) 4,176 (10.5%)

• Anne McCloskey (Independent) 3,410 (8.6%)

• Raymond McCartney (Sinn Féin) 3,198 (8.1%)

• Maeve McLaughlin (Sinn Féin) 3,062 (7.7%)

• Gerard Diver (SDLP) 2,700 (6.8%)

• Julia Kee (UUP) 1,420 (3.6%)

• Maurice Devenney (Independent) 1,173 (3.0%)

• Kathleen Bradley (Independent) 902 (2.3%)

• John Lindsay (CISTA) 259 (0.7%)

• Chris McCaw (Alliance) 238 (0.6%)

• Mary Hassan (Green) 157 (0.4%)

• Alan Dunlop (Conservative) 36 (0.1%)

Electorate 71,759

Turnout 40,187 (56%)