That Gerry Caroll of People Before Profit (PBP) topped the poll in last year’s Assembly election was sensational, but it was not quite a surprise.
The surprise was his success in West Belfast the previous year, in the Westminster election, when he got 7,000 votes. It was still far below the 19,000 for Paul Maskey of Sinn Fein, but Mr Carroll’s tally was nothing less than an earthquake in Sinn Fein’s republican heartland.
Mr Caroll topped the poll last year because he was the only PBP candidate. Sinn Fein on the other hand fielded five candidates, and was not too far from getting five elected – four got in easily.
Careful vote management meant that the tallies were fairly evenly spread between the SF quintet. Alex Maskey got most last time, and is likely to top their list again, but this time there are only four.
PBP, however, is emboldened to run two candidates. It will struggle to get a second MLA unless its vote surges.
The sole SDLP candidate Alex Attwood might also struggle. He scraped in last year, finally edging 90 votes ahead of Frank McCoubrey of the DUP in a late count. Mr McCoubrey again is the main challenger for that last seat.
Three Sinn Fein MLAs and one PBP (Carroll) are likely to be elected easily.
The final seat will be a fight between a fourth Sinn Fein, the DUP and the SDLP. It is hard to see how Mr McCoubrey can reach the higher quota in a five-seat constituency compared to last year’s six-seat quota but he could be last man standing.
The four candidates from other parties have next to no chance of getting election in West Belfast.
• Alex Attwood (SDLP)
• Conor Campbell (Workers Party)
• Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit Alliance)
• Michael Collins (People Before Profit)
• Sorcha Eastwood (Alliance)
• Orlaithi Flynn (Sinn Fein)
• Alex Maskey (Sinn Fein)
• Fra McCann (Sinn Fein)
• Frank McCoubrey (DUP)
• Ellen Murray (Gree Party)
• Fred Rodgers (UUP)
• Pat Sheehan (Sinn Fein)
• Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit) 8,299 (22.9%)
• Alex Maskey (SF) 4,769 (13.1%)
• Jennifer McCann (SF) 4,386 (12.1%)
• Fra McCann (SF) 4,028 (11.1%)
• Frank McCoubrey (DUP) 3,766 (10.4%)
• Pat Sheehan (SF) 3,516 (9.7%)
• Rosie McCorley (SF) 3,053 (8.4%)
• Alex Attwood (SDLP)2,647 (7.3%)
• Gareth Martin (UUP) 654 (1.8%)
• C Campbell (Workers Party) 532 (1.5%)
• Ellen Murray (Green) 327
• Jemima Higgins (Alliance) 291
Votes cast: 36,990 (57.8%)