Election 2017: Newry & Armagh contest led by six front-runners

The Catholic cathedral in Armagh

The Catholic cathedral in Armagh

Unionists in Newry and Armagh – with its anti-Union majority – are unlikely to be following the example of UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and asking voters to transfer to the SDLP.

It would be the political death knell for high-profile UUP candidate Danny Kennedy.

Kennedy knows that the DUP’s William Irwin is likely (as last May) to top the poll in the constituency.

With unionist candidates altogether taking little over 40% of first-preference votes in 2016’s Assembly election, transfers among the unionists are essential.

Mr Irwin said: “I am asking my supporters to transfer to pro-Union candidates.

“If they do that, we can retain two seats, despite the reduction from six to five.”

If both unionists are elected, it means that one of the four nationalists will bite the dust.

Their strong line-up is the Sinn Fein three – Megan Fearon, Cathal Boylan and Conor Murphy – plus Justin McNulty (SDLP).

All four made it comfortably last time.

Shrewd vote management among the Sinn Fein trio saw them equally share the party’s 45%-plus share of the first preference votes, while the SDLP combination of Justin McNulty and Karen McKevitt attracted 18 per cent between them.

Only those six will count among the nine fighting in Newry and Armagh.

Jackie Coade (Alliance), Rowan Tunnicliffe (Green) and Emmet Crossan (CISTA) will fall at the early fences.

2017 candidates:

• Cathal Boylan (Sinn Fein)

• Jackie Coade (Alliance)

• Emmet Crossan (Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance)

• Megan Fearon (Sinn Fein)

• William George Irwin (DUP)

• Danny Kennedy (UUP)

• Justin McNulty (SDLP)

• Conor Murphy (Sinn Fein)

• Rowan Tunnicliffe (Green Party)

2016 results:

• William Irwin (DUP) 7,980 (16.7%)

• Megan Fearon (Sinn Féin) 6,838 (14.3%)

• Cathal Boylan (Sinn Féin) 6,822 (14.3%)

• Conor Murphy (Sinn Féin) 5,854 (12.3%)

• Danny Kennedy (UUP) 4,904 (10.3%)

• Justin McNulty (SDLP) 4,775 (10.0%)

• Karen McKevitt (SDLP) 3,923 (8.2%)

• Sam Nicholson (UUP) 1,841 (3.9%)

• Paul Berry (Independent) 1,663 (3.5%)

• Emmet Crossan (CISTA) 1,032 (2.2%)

• Martin McAllister (Independent) 940 (2.0%)

• Craig Weir (Alliance) 493 (1.0%)

• Alan Love (UKIP) 315 (0.7%)

• Michael Watters (Green) 335 (0.7%)

Electorate: 81,756

Votes cast: 48,498 (59.3%)