19 May

My Eye – King of the Castle in South Antrim

Senior Account Executive Jack Gibson gives an overview of the upcoming electoral contest in South Antrim.

One of the surprise results of the 2015 General Election was the defeat of DUP outgoing MP William McCrea by the UUP’s Danny Kinahan – however two years later, the DUP want that seat back.

Kinahan is one of the more interesting characters to have emerged onto the NI political scene in recent years. A cousin of Chris de Burgh, the Stowe-educated former soldier lived in the historic Castle Upton at the time of his election, and worked as the NI representative of Christie’s auction house.

The Rev William McCrea, who had held the seat since 2005, seemed a better fit for the traditionally conservative, rural constituency.

However, Kinahan’s election reflected, in part, the changing demographics of the constituency. Belfast commuters have been migrating to South Antrim for some years, and responded well to Kinahan’s liberal unionism – he voiced his support for gay marriage during the campaign, among other issues.

The election this time round appears to follow a similar dynamic – Kinahan remains the more socially liberal candidate, while the DUP’s Paul Girvan is a more conservative character.

Girvan is a strong electoral performer, who topped the polls in the 2016 Assembly Election. And while the DUP had, by their standards, a disappointing night in this year’s Assembly Election in South Antrim, the fact remains that the party’s total vote was stronger than the UUP’s.

And it must be remembered that in 2015 the UUP took a great deal of momentum into the General Election. This time, the party is reeling from a tough Assembly Election, and coming to terms with a change of leadership.

However, Kinahan’s affable, interesting character has chimed with voters, and he has been an active and a visible representative in the constituency during his two years in office.

He seems likely to hold his seat – polling company LucidTalk gives him a 75% chance of holding.

But nothing’s certain and, come results day, the crooner’s cousin will have to hope he’s not ‘sailing away’…

The Chambré Public Affairs General Election 2017 Bulletin is your free guide to the 2017 General Election in Northern Ireland. To subscribe for free, please click here and fill out the short form. For more information about Chambré Public Affairs and what we do, please visit www.chambrepa.com

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