Constituency profile: Belfast East

27 February 2017

In the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections we are taking a detailed look at the 18 constituencies around Northern Ireland. Today we focus on Belfast East.

Belfast East

Former Castlereagh Mayor Joanne Bunting replaced the retired Peter Robinson in Belfast East, topping the poll along the way. It was a similarly strong showing for DUP colleagues Sammy Douglas and Robin Newton. Alliance leader Naomi Long was comfortably elected, having previously served as an MLA and then constituency MP between 2010 and 2015. Fellow Alliance representative Chris Lyttle was also successful. The UUP’s Andy Allen would end up as the party’s sole MLA across four Belfast constituencies. The 14 candidates standing in Belfast East on 2 March are listed below.


Allen, Andy


Bodel, Sheila


Bunting, Joanne


de Faoite, Séamas


Douglas, David


Girvin, Andrew


Kyle, John


Long, Naomi


Lyttle, Chris


McKeag, Jordy


Milne, Georgina

Green Party

Newton, Robin


O'Donnell, Mairéad

Sinn Féin

Robinson, Courtney

Labour Alternative



At a glance

  • Naomi Long faces her second electoral contest since the 2015 general election. The Alliance leader was constituency MP for five years, having surprisingly defeated Peter Robinson in 2010. She lost her re-election campaign to Robinson namesake Gavin but won her Assembly bid 12 months later. 

  • Belfast East is the only constituency where the Alliance Party holds more than one seat. It will field two nominees this year, instead of three.

  • Sammy Douglas, an MLA since 2011, will not run on 2 March. However, he has been replaced on the DUP ticket by his son, David.

  • Having garnered a respectable haul of 2,183 first-preference votes in May, the Green Party returns with a different candidate: Georgina Milne replaces Ross Brown.

  • Of the smaller parties, UKIP and the Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee have declined to stand. Dr John Kyle will once again appear on the ballot paper for the PUP, while Sheila Bodel is a new Conservative contestant.



Belfast East’s status as a bastion of unionism is well established, though its electorate has found room for a pair of Alliance MLAs since 2011. Whether this continues is a question Chris Lyttle (recipient of the final seat last year) will be asking himself as polling day approaches.

That said, in the current climate the DUP might be more vulnerable. Its vote management in 2016 was undeniably impressive – the party’s third candidate claimed the fourth spot – but the furore around RHI and the political pressure placed on erstwhile Assembly Speaker Robin Newton in the final weeks of the last term could erode the public’s willingness to back three DUP MLAs. The popular Sammy Douglas has departed the stage, though his son, David, will hope to find currency in the general fondness for his father. 

Elsewhere, Andy Allen, a former co-optee, secured a mandate in his own right last time out. He is looking for grassroots rancour towards the DUP to benefit his candidacy. A hold here, in party leader Mike Nesbitt’s resident constituency, is surely the least the Ulster Unionists can expect. 

As far as nationalist hopefuls are concerned, Mairéad O'Donnell is unlikely to better Sinn Féin’s previous efforts in Belfast East. The SDLP’s Séamas de Faoite, meanwhile, may be sure of Nesbitt’s transfer, but few others.