Election 2017: North Belfast may have united Ireland majority

The Waterworks in North Belfast. The constituency includes loyalist strongholds like Tiger's Bay which sit cheeck-by-jowl with areas like the deeply-republican New Lodge.
The Waterworks in North Belfast. The constituency includes loyalist strongholds like Tiger's Bay which sit cheeck-by-jowl with areas like the deeply-republican New Lodge.

North Belfast was dominated four-to-two by unionists in 1998, but since 2003 there has been an equal split between unionist MLAs and pro-united Ireland ones.

This will now inevitably change, due to the cut from six Assembly seats down to five in each constituency.

It has had two Sinn Fein MLAs and a single SDLP one from 2003 onwards. In fact, the only major change since then is that instead of one UUP and two DUP MLAs, all unionists in recent years have been from the latter party.

A sectarian hotspot in the Troubles, with loyalist and republican streets essentially side-by-side, the constituency is divided quite evenly between those who are (or at least were born) Catholic and Protestant – but with a slight Catholic majority (about 47% Catholic to 46% Protestant).

In 2015 Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly came under fire for saying this spelled an automatic “nationalist majority”.

If the first-preference votes from 2016 are anything to go by (below), it might not.

Sinn Fein can only take two seats, since they are only fielding that many candidates. But with the DUP once again putting forward the same winning trio it has used since 2011, it remains to be seen if it can hold the line – or if the area’s representation will tilt towards republican/nationlist domination.

2017 candidates:

• Paula Jane Bradley (DUP)

• Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston (PUP)

• Fiona Ferguson (People Before Profit)

• Robert Foster (UUP)

• William Humphrey (DUP)

• Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein)

• Nichola Mallon (SDLP)

• Nuala McAllister (Alliance)

• Nelson McCausland (DUP)

• Adam Millar (Ind)

• Caral Ni Chuilin (Sinn Fein)

• Malachai George O’Hara (Greens)

• Gemma Weir (Workers Party)

2016 results:

• Gerry Kelly (SF) 5,695 (15.6%)

• Paula Bradley (DUP) 4,591 (12.6%)

• William Humphrey (DUP) 4,105 (11.2%)

• Nelson McCausland (DUP) 4,087 (11.2%)

• Caral Ni Chuilin (SF) 4,009 (11%)

• Nichola Mallon (SDLP) 3,866 (10.6%)

• Nuala McAllister (Alliance) 2,569 (7%)

• Lesley Carroll (UUP) 1,972 (5.4%)

• Fiona Ferguson (People Before Profit) 1,286 (3.5%)

• Billy Hutchinson (PUP) 1,238 (3.4%)

• Malachai O’Hara (Green) 796 (2.2%)

• Ken Boyle (UKIP) 751 (2.1%)

• John Miller (TUV) 644 (1.8%)

• Gemma Weir (Workers Party) 476 (1.3%)

• Fra Hughes (Ind) 243

• Abdo Thabeth (NI Labour) 127

• Tom Burns (Ind) 87

• Geoff Dowey (NI First) 32

Electorate: 70,872

Votes cast: 37,193 (52.5%)