Election 2015: Foyle

The Peace Bridge in Londonderry, Foyle
The Peace Bridge in Londonderry, Foyle

Mark Durkan is probably favourite to retain his Foyle seat for a second time having first been elected to Westminster in 2005 following the retirement of John Hume.

The former SDLP leader will this time be challenged most closely by former mayor of Londonderry Gearoid O’hEara, a sitting member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and a well-known Irish language lobbyist.

As has been the case in the constituency since its creation in the 1980s, a unionist cannot win, by simple dint of the demographics of the city.

The main unionist candidate in Foyle this time out will be Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton, who took over when former MLA Maurice Devenney decided to spend more time working at council level.

The DUP candidate will be faced with an uphill battle in trying to arrest the apparent decline of the unionist vote, which was down to 15.6 per cent in 2010.

Both David Harding – who stood in an alliance of Conservatives and the UUP, formally known as the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force – and Keith McGrellis of the Alliance lost their deposits.

These poor showings and other recent election results indicate that some unionists in Foyle (where roughly 22 per cent of the population are, or were raised, Protestant) have been voting tactically to ensure the SDLP advantage over Sinn Fein doesn’t diminish any further.

Some will accept the analysis of American anarchist Noam Chomsky, that whilst your woman or man has no chance of getting in, you can always find someone to vote against.

Sinn Fein will hope that, by fielding Gerry O’hEara, they may at least reduce the number of unionist votes going Mark Durkan’s way.

Mr O’hEara has also been involved in a number of cross-community initiatives and played a central role in bringing the Fleadh to Londonderry in 2013.

A number of loyalist bands engaged with the Fleadh that year, and by and large unionists accept that it made every effort to be inclusive.

The vast majority of unionists, however, tend to vote for the DUP.

The party used to receive between 20 and 30 per cent of the vote when it was the only unionist contestant on the ballot in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mary Hamilton and Julia Kee recently increased the UUP vote by 60 per cent in the Waterside in the inaugural Derry and Strabane Council elections, and the party is attempting to build on this by fielding Ms Kee as a candidate.

UKIP helped split the unionist vote somewhat in the council elections last year, and has entered community worker Kyle Thompson as a candidate for the general election also.

Another interesting benchmark to look out for will be how far turnout is up, or more likely, down.

In the inaugural Foyle election in 1983 almost 80 per cent of the electorate turned out.

Fewer than 60 per cent of voters turned out the last time; the lowest engagement ever.


BADENOCH, Hamish Alexander (Conservatives)


HAWTHORNE, David (Alliance)

KEE, Julia (UUP)


Ó HEÁRA, Gearóid (Sinn Fein)

THOMPSON, Kyle James (Ukip)



Mark Durkan (SDLP): 16,922

44.7%, down 1.6% on 2005

M Anderson (SF): 12,098 31.9%, -1.3%

M Devenney (DUP): 4,489, 11.9%, -2.5%

Eamonn McCann (PBP): 2,936

7.8%, up 4.2%

David Harding (UUP-Con.): 1,221

3.2%, up 0.8%

Keith McGrellis (Alliance): 223, 0.6%

Electorate: 65,843

Turnout: 58%


Mark Durkan (SDLP): 21,119, 46.3%

Mitchel McLaughlin (Sinn Fein): 15,162 33.2%

William Hay (DUP): 6,557, 14.4%

Eamonn McCann (Socialist Environmental Alliance): 1,649, 3.6%

Earl Storey (UUP): 1,091, 2.4%

Ben Reel (Vote for Yourself): 31, 0.1%


John Hume (SDLP): 24,538, 50.2%

Mitchel McLaughlin (Sinn Fein): 12,988 26.6%

William Hay (DUP): 7,414, 15.2%

Andrew Davidson (UUP): 3,360, 6.9%

Colm Cavanagh (Alliance): 579, 1.2%