Constituency profile: Strangford

17 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 Strangford.


Strangford has elected three DUP MLAs, two UUP MLAs and one Alliance MLA in every election since 1998 with the exception of 2007 when the DUP picked up four seats, leaving the UUP with a single representative. The UUP later regained that seat in 2011. With only five places on offer in 2017, that balance could be repeated. The thirteen candidates standing in Strangford on 2 March are listed below.

Armstrong, Kellie


Bamford, Ricky

Green Party

Bell, Jonathan


Benton, Scott


Boyle, Joe


Cooper, Stephen


Hamilton, Simon


Kennedy, Dermot

Sinn Féin

McIlveen, Michelle


Menagh, Jimmy


Nesbitt, Mike


Smith, Philip


Weir, Peter



At a glance

  • A number of candidates have disappeared from the ballot since 2016. Independent Rab McCartney is not running and UKIP’s Stephen Crosby will not contest this election. Elsewhere, Harry Harvey from the DUP has lost out due to the DUP’s decision to only name three candidates.

  • Despite the short-lived mandate of 2016-2017, Strangford witnessed change, with the DUP’s Jonathan Bell currently suspended from the party. He will stand as an independent unionist, up against three DUP candidates.  

  • The DUP replaced Mr Bell with Peter Weir, an outgoing MLA for neighbouring North Down. Consequently, the DUP now has three ministers seeking election in this constituency: Simon Hamilton, Minister for the Economy; Michelle McIlveen, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; and Mr Weir, Minister of Education.

  • The remaining parties feature the same candidates from 2016, save for the Green Party and the Conservatives. The Conservative candidate, Scott Benton, is currently the leader of the Conservative group on Calderdale Borough Council in Yorkshire, whilst the Green candidate, Ricky Bamford, works in the voluntary sector, focusing on homelessness and housing.



All eyes will be on former DUP MLA Jonathan Bell. Mr Bell received 3,393 first-preference votes in last year’s poll and the overall result will depend on his ability to retain those votes as an independent. Can he hang on to that seat? And if not, where might his transfers go? Should those voters transfer to the UUP in large numbers, the race could be tight, and the absence of UKIP and any broader swings away from the DUP could also aid the UUP in pulling off a surprise here. 

That said, the DUP will be confident that it can hang on to at least two seats, with local incumbents Simon Hamilton and Michelle McIlveen perhaps more secure as previous tried and tested vote winners. UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, who topped the poll in 2016, will also be confident. This leaves two spots still up for grabs.

Based on results from 2016, Kellie Armstrong looks like a strong contender but we shouldn’t completely dismiss the SDLP’s Joe Boyle, who came close to stealing home in May. Finally, Peter Weir and Philip Smith (himself a successful candidate last year) are likely to battle it out for the remaining seat. Transfers and DUP vote management will ultimately determine the winner.