Constituency profile: Upper Bann

28 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 Upper Bann.

Upper Bann

Last year, the six seats in this majority unionist constituency were shared equally amongst the DUP, Sinn Féin and the UUP, with long-standing MLA Dolores Kelly of the SDLP losing out. The election saw the final seat go to Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd who, in spite of his election at the first count in 2011, received fewer votes than party colleague Catherine Seeley and was made to wait for transfers in a photo finish with Kelly. The 12 candidates standing on 2 March are listed below.


Beattie, Doug


Buckley, Jonathan


Craig, Colin

Workers Party

Dobson, Jo-Anne


Doyle, Tara


Ferguson, Roy


Kelly, Dolores


Lee, Simon

Green Party

Lockhart, Carla


Nickels, Ian


O'Dowd, John

Sinn Féin

Toman, Nuala

Sinn Féin


At a glance

  • The number of contestants on the Upper Bann ballot paper remains the same as that in 2016. Twelve candidates – including two DUP, two Sinn Féin, two UUP and one SDLP – run in a near replay of the previous contest.

  • Four of the six successful nominees from last year’s vote are not standing for re-election. Retiring DUP MLA Sydney Anderson is replaced by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor Jonathan Buckley; Sinn Féin’s Catherine Seeley returns to a career in teaching, with her replacement being Nuala Toman.

  • This constituency exemplifies the power that transfers can have on election results. Last time around, Dolores Kelly banked 4,335 first preferences, 1,366 ahead of the UUP’s Doug Beattie, yet it was Beattie who was elected to the fifth seat. Sixth place went to John O’Dowd who took in 5,209 first preferences.



If that battle produced a nail-biting finish, this year’s contest for five seats promises more of the same. Will Dolores Kelly make a comeback? Can Sinn Féin hold on to its second seat? The UUP also narrowly elected two MLAs last year; are Jo-Anne Dobson and Doug Beattie set to increase their first-preference haul in the absence of a vote-splitting third candidate? The DUP’s two candidates were elected comfortably last time. Will the party continue to dominate in a one-time UUP stronghold?

Voting transfers will be crucial in Upper Bann, with another close race expected in claiming the final seat. Given the fact that John O’Dowd’s journey to re-election in 2016 contrasted so drastically with his count in 2011, each candidate will be wary of STV’s pitfalls going into this election. Although Kelly lost her seat last May, the prospect of her returning to Stormont after an unpredictable snap election, in an equally unpredictable constituency, should not be dismissed. What would certainly help the SDLP stalwart are transfers from the two UUP candidates. Will they be forthcoming?

On the topic of transfers, it is worth noting that three smaller parties in this constituency –namely the Alliance Party, TUV, and UKIP – each picked up over 1,000 first preference votes last May. Time will tell if they manage to make a breakthrough this March; if not there could be a lot of transfers to distribute.