Election 2022: Unionism has eyes on four seats in Lagan Valley

A constituency profile by News Letter Political Editor HENRY McDONALD on the battle in Lagan Valley

By Henry McDonald
Saturday, 16th April 2022, 7:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 3:44 pm

Lagan Valley’s sitting MP and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says most of the drama in his constituency will be acted out in the struggle for the final seat.

Sir Jeffrey is confident that he and his running mate Paul Givan will secure two seats for the DUP.

He predicts that the overall percentage share of the unionist transfers should also bring back the Ulster Unionists’ Robbie Butler.

Lisburn Civic Centre in the Lagan Valley constituency.

And with Alliance’s Sorcha Eastwood a safe bet to gain a seat, taking the fifth will be where the battle commences.

“The fifth seat is currently held by the SDLP but I think that a fourth unionist and the Alliance may well be battling for that final seat,” he said.

The DUP leader insisted there is a realistic chance of unionism winning four out of the five Lagan Valley seats.

“There is every prospect of a fourth unionist seat in Lagan Valley. There were only 300 to 400 votes between the third DUP candidate and Pat Catney in 2017. And we believe that if unionists transfer their votes, there is every possibility that you could get a fourth unionist seat. We are very clear that we are calling on DUP voters to transfer their preferences once they vote 1 and 2 for the DUP to the other pro-Union candidates in order of their choice.”

Mr Butler said he was “genuinely confident that not only will I be returned to the Assembly but there is a real chance that the UUP’s second candidate Laura Turner will win the fifth seat”.

A second Assembly seat for Alliance in the constituency would be an historic first for a party which has never won two seats in the same area in a devolution electoral contest.

Sorcha Eastwood said she believed this time around Alliance are on the verge of making history in Lagan Valley.

“There has been a phenomenal response from people on the doors in the constituency to Alliance’s positive message, as we want to tackle issues which really matter to people - from the cost of living crisis and mounting pressures on the health service, to fighting the climate crisis and ensuring everyone in our society is treated equally.

“These factors combined give me confidence Alliance is best placed to win a second seat in Lagan Valley and show we are a constituency which values delivery, not drama, from its political parties.”

The Traditional Unionist Voice candidate in Lagan Valley, Lorna Smyth, said voters “deserve clarity” over Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s intentions if elected to the Assembly and what he intends to do about his seat in the House of Commons.

“Within 10 days of the poll he will have to choose between Westminster and Stormont. Could it be a case of Lagan Valley voters being asked to vote for the DUP leader and then having someone co-opted in this place?” she said.

Despite the ongoing rancour and discord within the Lagan Valley unionist family, with Ms Smyth referencing the “Poots Posts” - the port checkpoints that are the frontline of the Northern Ireland Protocol set up under Edwin Poots’ Department of Agriculture - the TUV candidate also called for unionist transfer-solidarity.

“As for maximising the unionist vote, that can best be done by transferring down the ballot to all pro-Union, anti-Protocol candidates. TUV is clear that this is what voters should do and yes, if everyone follows this advice, four of the five seats can be won for unionism.”

Making history for Alliance might come at the expense of Pat Catney, a popular MLA for the constituency who pushed through one of the last pieces of legislation on the final day of the Assembly. Mr Catney won cross-party support for his bill to alleviate period poverty and ensure that free sanitary products for women and girls are available in all public buildings throughout the Province.

If he survives, it will be a case of as-you-where back in the 2017 election.

Full list of candidates:

Butler, Robbie (UUP)

Catney, Pat (SDLP)

Doherty, Amanda (PBP)

Donaldson, Jeffrey (DUP)

Eastwood, Sorcha (All)

Givan, Paul (DUP)

Honeyford, David (All)

Hynds, Gary (Ind)

Lee, Simon (Green)

McCleave, Gary (SF)

Smyth, Lorna (TUV)

Turner, Laura (UUP)

Outgoing MLAs

Robbie Butler (UUP)

Paul Givan (DUP)

Trevor Lunn (Ind)

Edwin Poots (DUP)

Pat Catney (SDLP)

March 2017 Stormont Election results

Paul Givan DUP 8,035 17.83% ELECTED

Robbie Butler UUP 6,846 15.19% ELECTED

Trevor Lunn All 6,105 13.55% ELECTED

Edwin Poots DUP 6,013 13.34% ELECTED

Pat Catney SDLP 3,795 8.42% ELECTED

Brenda Hale DUP 4,566 10.13%

Jenny Palmer UUP 4,492 9.97%

Peter Doran SF 1,801 4.00%

Samuel Morrison TUV 1,389 3.08%

Dan Barrios-O’Neill Green 912 2.02%

Jonny Orr Ind 856 1.90%

Matthew Robinson Con 183 0.41%

Keith Gray Ind 76 0.17%

December 2019 General Election results

Jeffrey Donaldson DUP 19,586 43.1% ELECTED

Sorcha Eastwood All 13,087 28.8%

Robbie Butler UUP 8,60 6 19.0%

Ally Haydock SDLP 1,758 3.9%

Gary McCleave SF 1,098 2.4%

Gary Hynds Cons 955 2.1%

Alan Love UKIP 315 0.7%