Election 2017: Fermanagh S/Tyrone should see Arlene home safe

Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh
Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh

No doubt many will see the contest in Fermanagh South Tyrone as a referendum on DUP leader Arlene Foster in her own constituency, in light of the ongoing Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) controversy.

However no rival unionists consider her seat to be seriously at risk.

The DUP have said that RHI is being raised at around one door in 20, and not in a manner that would cause a significant electoral impact.

Health service waiting lists are the largest single issue on the doors, with economic investment also featuring, but despite being a border constituency unionist voters are not raising Brexit on the doors.

There is a strong consensus that two unionist and two nationalist candidates will be elected – one of them likely Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew – but that the fifth and now last seat could be close.

Last year the UUP fielded two candidates and won 12.8% of first preference votes but saw only one candidate elected.

This time they are fielding one, Rosemary Barton, hoping to see her safely across the line. Countering her party leader’s position, she is urging unionists to give their additional preference votes to unionists – not the SDLP.

The tactics could prove a problem for the SDLP’s Richie McPhillips, whose party won 8.5%of votes in 2016.

He said: “When going down from six to five seats, it is going to be a big fight. I think it will be between Sinn Fein, a unionist and myself.”

The TUV, which got only 2.5% of votes last time, is running a “cross community Christian ticket” against abortion and gay marriage.

2017 candidates:

• Rosemary Barton (UUP)

• Noreen Campbell (Alliance)

• Jemma Dolan (Sinn Fein)

• Richard Dunn (Conervatives)

• Alex Elliott (TUV)

• Arlene Foster (DUP)

• Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Fein)

• Tanya Jones (Greens)

• Sean Lynch (Sinn Fein)

• Richie McPhillips (SDLP)

• Maurice Morrow (DUP)

• Donal O’Cofaigh (Cross-Community Labour Alternative)

2016 results:

• Arlene Foster (DUP) 8,801 (18.7%)

• [Lord] Maurice Morrow (DUP) 6,602 (14%)

• Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin) 6,614 (14%)

• Seán Lynch (Sinn Féin) 4,782 (10.1%)

• Richie McPhillips (SDLP) 4,014 (8.5%)

• John Feely (Sinn Féin) 4,002 (8.5%)

• Rosemary Barton (UUP) 3,018 (6.4%)

• Alastair Patterson (UUP) 3,010 (6.4%)

• Phil Flanagan (Sinn Féin) 3,449 (7.3%)

• Donald Crawford (TUV) 1,164 (2.5%)

• Tanya Jones (Green (NI)) 897 (1.9%)

• Kerri Blyberg (Alliance) 539 (1.1%)

• Damien Harris (NI Labour) 285 (0.6%)

Electorate: 74,257

Turnout: 47,934 (64.6%)