Constituency profile: East Antrim

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. Our latest profile is East Antrim.

East Antrim

A unionist-dominated constituency, the SDLP lost nationalism’s sole seat in 2003. Eight years later, following the redrawing of boundaries that brought the Glens of Antrim within East Antrim, Sinn Féin won its first ever seat here, holding it last May in spite of a close result.

The DUP became the dominant force in 2003, returning three MLAs at every election since, whilst the UUP fell from two to one following the 2011 poll. The Alliance Party’s sole seat since has been held since 1998, and the party will field a second candidate on 2 March. The 15 candidates standing in East Antrim on 2 March are listed below.


Beggs, Roy


Best, Ricky


Dickson, Stewart


Donnelly, Danny


Dunlop, Alan


Hilditch, David


Jordan, Noel


Lyons, Gordon


McKillop, Margaret Anne


McMullan, Oliver

Sinn Féin

Patterson, Dawn

Green Party

Ross, Stephen


Sheridan, Conor

Labour Alternative

Stewart, John


Wilson, Ruth



At a glance

  • Five of East Antrim’s outgoing MLAs will contest the 2017 election, with the DUP’s Alastair Ross deciding not to seek re-election.

  • Roy Beggs of the UUP has served as an MLA for East Antrim since 1998, as has DUP veteran David Hilditch.

  • The same number of candidates will run in 2017 as ran in 2016, the difference being one less UUP candidate, and no PUP candidate; the additions to the ticket are Alan Dunlop for the Conservative Party and Ricky Best, who is contesting as an independent.



A DUP stronghold, the party will be expecting to poll well in East Antrim, yet with one less seat available, and competition coming from the UUP, the TUV and UKIP, there exists potential for an upset. In 2016, three Ulster Unionists featured on the ballot. That decision may have cost the party a potential second seat; running on a reduced ticket of two people may help it in breaking through the DUP bulwark.

UKIP polled particularly well last year, narrowly missing out on a seat after failing to pick up sufficient transfers from the second excluded UUP nominee.  

The Alliance Party’s Stewart Dickson should be safe, the confidence in his re-election clear in the party’s decision to once again stand a second candidate, even in light of the fewer seats available.

Less confident will be Sinn Féin’s Oliver McMullan, who just about made the final six in May. The problem for Sinn Féin in this constituency is that it struggles to attract transfers, with the only sizeable 2016 portion coming from the SDLP (excluded on the sixth count), along with a few from the Alliance Party. This seat represents a potential loss for Sinn Féin.