Northern Ireland Assembly Nominations Close

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This afternoon nominations closed for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.  Voters in the province go to the polls on the same day as the London, English local, Scottish Parliamentary and Welsh Assembly elections on May 5th. At the previous NI Assembly election in 2011 the BNP had three candidates, but neither the BNP nor NF will have candidates in Northern Ireland this year, nor will any of the smaller racial nationalist parties.

The main concern of most H&D readers in Ulster will be to see that those political forces prepared to resist Sinn Fein (political arm of the terrorist IRA) maximise their vote. Due to the terms under which the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive were constituted, following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, power sharing among the various parties is guaranteed, with executive positions being allocated to any party with a significant number of Assembly seats.

Nevertheless there will be considerable interest in how the balance within unionism works out between the once dominant Ulster Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) whose leader Arlene Foster is the outgoing First Minister, the dissident Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and various independents, such as former DUP activist Billy Dickson, who is standing in South Belfast.

UKIP has made some modest inroads in Northern Ireland, mostly winning votes within the unionist community, but won no Assembly seats at the last election in 2011 and will probably fail again, despite the proportional electoral system which gives some chance to smaller parties. The big story here is in South Down, where Henry Reilly (then UKIP’s chairman in Northen Ireland) achieved his party’s best result by far in 2011, polling 5.6%. Mr Reilly was expelled from UKIP in November 2015 following an internal dispute and now sits as a TUV councillor – he will be TUV candidate for the Assembly this year, and UKIP will have no candidate in South Down. Mr Reilly has denounced his former party for changing its policy and becoming too much in favour of the Good Friday Agreement: “In my view the GFA is not working and needs radical root and branch reform. That is what Ukip previously stood for. Now they are just another small-pro-agreement party.”

Mr Reilly has a strong chance of winning an Assembly seat this year, particularly with his strong personal vote in the fishing port of Kilkeel.

In North Antrim, Donna Anderson, a former TUV councillor who defected to UKIP, will be standing for the Assembly against TUV’s leader Jim Allister, who is almost certain to be re-elected. UKIP will be contesting 13 of the 18 constituencies: aside from South Down, they are missing only the Republican/Catholic strongholds of West Belfast, West Tyrone, Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Foyle.

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