Constituency profile: Belfast South

24 February 2017

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

Belfast South

The cosmopolitan constituency of Belfast South is home to a diverse population, which has seen significant changes in its Assembly representation since 1998; most notably a waning of the unionist vote, with three seats becoming two.

The SDLP and UUP have both seen their Stormont presence diminish from holding the lion’s share in the period between 1998 and 2007.Having previously held four spots between them, the 2016 election proved decisive. The SDLP now occupies a single seat, the UUP none.

Competition for votes has come from the Alliance Party, for whom the now-retired Anna Lo topped the poll in 2011. It is now in contention for a second seat.

Perhaps one of the biggest breakthroughs last year was the Green Party’s Clare Bailey securing the fourth seat of six. The DUP, meanwhile, sealed a record high for the party in this constituency, finishing with two candidates inside the final six. The 14 candidates standing in Belfast South on 2 March are listed below.


Bailey, Clare

Green Party

Bradshaw, Paula


Burns, Sean

Labour Alternative

Gallagher, Naomh


Hanna, Claire


Henderson, Michael


Hiddleston, John


Jabbour, George


Kerr, Lily

Workers Party

Little-Pengelly, Emma


McDonough-Brown, Emmet


Mervyn, Pádraigín


Ó Muilleoir, Máirtín

Sinn Féin

Stalford, Christopher



At a glance

  • All six outgoing MLAs are contesting the election and, with the reduction in seats, at least one of these will not be returned.

  • None of those six has yet served a full term in the Assembly: Claire Hanna, Máirtin Ó Muilleoir and Emma Little-Pengelly were co-opted during the 2011 mandate. There have been five co-options in Belfast South since 1998.

  • There are four fewer candidates on the ballot paper than in 2016. The PUP, UKIP, South Belfast Unionists and independent candidate Ruth Patterson will not challenge.

  • Ó Muilleoir served as Finance Minister during the short-lived 2016 mandate, whilst Hanna, as Chair of the Committee for Finance, was tasked with leading scrutiny of his department.



Sinn Féin will be confident of retaining its one seat here, whilst the SDLP and Alliance also look set to see their outgoing MLAs returned. Both are running a second candidate, though a gain for either seems unlikely given the reduction in available seats from six to five.

The DUP, having taken two places in 2016, should be confident of seeing one of its outgoing MLAs get over the line, but it remains to be seen which one will perform most strongly on election day. The UUP hopes to make gains after losing out in May, boosted by the hope that the RHI scandal will bring back some of its traditional supporters.

Green Party stalwart Clare Bailey pulled off a remarkable win last time out, increasing her vote by almost 7 per cent, margin that saw her elected to the fourth seat with relative comfort. In a constituency that has resembled a revolving door from election to election, there is always potential for an upset.