‘At best DUP will have two MLAs in Lagan Valley’: Trevor Lunn

A long-serving former Alliance representative is tipping the SDLP to retain its Lagan Valley Assembly seat – leaving at least one of the three likely DUP candidates at risk.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 6:50 am
Successful Lagan Valley DUP candidates Paul Givan (centre) and Edwin Poots (right) congratulate Pat Catney of the SDLP on his election to the NI Assembly in 2017. Photograph: Declan Roughan

Trevor Lunn, who has sat as an independent MLA since leaving Alliance in March 2020, has expressed surprise that the DUP plans to add returning MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to the ballot paper for the Stormont elections in 2022.

The DUP lost one of it four MLAs when Jonathan Craig failed to get elected in 2016, and another as Brenda Hale came up 400 votes short when the number of MLAs in each constituency was cut from six to five the following year.

Although not confirmed, it looks likely the DUP will have sitting MLAs Paul Givan and Edwin Poots standing in Lagan Valley along with party leader Sir Jeffrey – unless a seat becomes available to Mr Donaldson before next May, or either Mr Poots or Mr Givan decides to contest the parliamentary seat currently held by their leader.

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Trevor Lunn MLA. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Mr Lunn has decided to step down from Stormont when the next election takes place, having been an MLA since 2007.

He predicts that Pat Catney – who pipped Brenda Hale to secure an Assembly seat in 2017 – has “consolidated his position” and will be re-elected, giving the DUP, Alliance, Ulster Unionists and SDLP one seat each, leaving only one seat available for either of the other two DUP candidates or the second Alliance candidate.

Although not tipped for success by Mr Lunn this time around, the second UUP candidate in 2017 (Jenny Palmer) was in the running for the final seat until the closing stages of the vote transfer process.

“There is a rock solid DUP seat, a rock solid Alliance seat and a rock solid one for the Ulster Unionists – and only two left,” Mr Lunn said.

“My prediction is that the options for the last two seats are definitely open.

“I think the DUP are in a certain amount of disarray. I don’t think that Jeffrey [Donaldson] has really stamped his authority yet.

“He’s putting out that he’s going to run in Lagan Valley, and that they’re probably going to run three and hope to get three, but I think he probably knows that the best they can hope for it two, so somebody is going to have to take the fall.”

Mr Lunn added: “The DUP have been pretty good at the vote management over the years, and only lost the third seat by about 400 votes... but my feeling at the moment is that, if there was an [Assembly] election before Christmas, I wouldn’t be backing the DUP to take two [seats]. It’s possible they might end up with one.”

Mr Catney was confirmed on Wednesday night as the SDLP candidate to 2022 election.

Alliance is running two candidates in Sorcha Eastwood and David Honeyford.

Despite being a councillor in Castlereagh, outside of the Lagan Valley constituency, at the last Westminster election Cllr Eastwood added more than 8,000 votes to the previous Alliance candidate’s total two year’s earlier – an almost 18% boost.

Cllr Honeyford could also prove to be a popular choice due to his sporting and community work within the Glenavy and wider Lagan Valley area.

The son of a Presbyterian minister, and a passionate Ulster Rugby supporter, Cllr Honeyford “discovered GAA” in recent years and is now the development officer at Glenavy GAC.

Mr Lunn wishes his former colleagues in Alliance well.

“If Sorcha and David both get in that will be brilliant,” he said.

“David is hard worker on the ground and is very well-known around the Lisburn area. He might surprise people.

“Sorcha gets a lot of publicity but she is a Castlereagh councillor. Her area doesn’t form part of the parliamentary constituency, but she has a high profile and I think she would be favourite to the first [Alliance] seat.”

In a Twitter message following Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s decision to run in Lagan Valley, Cllr Eastwood said: “How entitled do DUP have to be to be claiming seats they lost & had numerous electoral drubbings since? Its almost as if they aren’t getting the message.

“Team Lagan Valley are ready any time, no drama, no musical chairs of seats,working hard, giving LV representation it deserves.”

Following the formal selection of Pat Catney as the SDLP candidate, party leader Colum Eastwood said: “I’m delighted that Pat will once again be the SDLP candidate in Lagan Valley. While others are already making plans based on seats they have not yet won,

“Pat will continue working, listening to local people and delivering on the issues that matter to them.”

Mr Catney said: “Lagan Valley has been subject to plenty of media attention in recent months. Two of my fellow constituency MLAs have made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Edwin Poots in his ill-fated spell as DUP leader and Paul Givan when he became First Minister against the wishes of his party.”

He added: “Now the new DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has announced his intention to come and join us in Lagan Valley. While all this has played out my primary focus has remained working hard on behalf of my constituents and addressing the issues that matter to them.”

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