Constituency profile: South Antrim

23 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 next piece focuses on South Antrim.

South Antrim

South Antrim is, in many ways, a bellwether constituency. The DUP’s rise across Northern Ireland has been evident here as it increased its share of the Stormont seats from one in 1998 to two in 2003, and three from 2011 onwards. The UUP, meanwhile, fell from two to one that year and has yet to regain the second seat. From 1998 to 2011, the SDLP held a single spot; Sinn Féin broke through in 2003. The one constant in all of this has been former Alliance leader and Justice Minister David Ford. He was elected in 1998. The 13 candidates standing in South Antrim on 2 March are listed below.


Aiken, Steve


Antova, Ivanka


Bailey, Eleanor

Green Party

Cairns, Richard


Cameron, Pam


Clarke, Trevor


Cochrane-Watson, Adrian


Ford, David


Girvan, Paul


Kearney, Declan

Sinn Féin

Logan, Mark


Lynch, Roisin


McMaster, David



At a glance

  • The DUP is running all three of its outgoing MLAs, as it did last year. Sinn Féin and Alliance have taken the same approach.

  • The SDLP and TUV candidates also contested the 2016 poll, as did independent David McMaster.

  • The Ulster Unionists are standing Steve Aiken, elected last May, as well as their former co-opted MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson. He was elevated to Stormont in 2015 as a replacement for newly elected South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan, but lost out in the Assembly 2016 election.

  • People Before Profit is making a foray into the constituency for the first time, with Ivanka Antova. Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Green Party both feature candidates in the form of Mark Logan and Eleanor Bailey, respectively.



At least two of the DUP’s outgoing MLAs should return. Paul Girvan and Pam Cameron seem the most likely to fill those places – Trevor Clarke trailed his running mates by over 1,000 votes in 2016. The UUP’s Steve Aiken will also be confident of victory, as will Sinn Féin’s Declan Kearney. This leaves one seat that could go to the UUP, the DUP or Alliance.

In calling this final seat there are a lot of variables to consider. David Ford has been an MLA in South Antrim since 1998, consistently confounding expectations in the years since. He could well benefit from SDLP transfers. For the UUP, a national swing against the DUP might help but the key is for Adrian Cochrane-Watson to outpoll Clarke.

It is worth pointing out that had the UUP put up only two candidates instead of three in 2016, the party probably have secured a second seat. However, running a third split the vote and an opportunity to make a gain was missed. Aided by surplus votes from the third candidate, and potentially receiving sufficient transfers from Aiken and the TUV, Cochrane-Watson could make it over the line. However, if Cochrane-Watson falls before Ford reaches the quota, Clarke might benefit.