Okay, here as promised, for what it’s worth, is my prediction for Nicholas Whyte’s Northern Ireland Elections competition.
DUP 8, SF 6, UUP 2, SDLP 2.
Seat by seat details, in descending order of certainty are as follows:
North Antrim – DUP
West Belfast – Sinn Fein
Mid-Ulster – Sinn Fein
It would take a major earthquake for Paisley, Adams or McGuinness to lose their seats.
East Derry – DUP
East Belfast – DUP
Strangford – DUP
North Belfast – DUP
It’s hard to see any of the DUP incumbents being in danger in the current climate. A nationalist candidate could theoretically take North Belfast on a split unionist vote, but Nigel Dodds looks too well established for that.
West Tyrone – Sinn Fein
Divisions among his opponents leave Pat Doherty looking safe enough.
Lagan Valley – DUP
Jeffrey Donaldson had a huge majority here for the Ulster Unionists in 2001. He has since defected to the DUP and I’m betting he will take sufficient voters with him to hold the seat.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone – Sinn Fein
Michelle Gildernew controversially won this seat in 2001 by 53 votes. A combination of incumbency and a split unionist vote should see her home this time around.
East Antrim – DUP
The DUP are expected to make gains and this is their number one target.
Newry and Armagh – Sinn Fein
The retirement of veteran SDLP Seamus Mallon leaves Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy in pole position to take this seat.
South Down – SDLP
The SDLP’s safest seat. If they lose this, the party could be facing complete meltdown.
Upper Bann – DUP
The DUP ran Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble very close in 2001. I reckon they may take the seat this time.
North Down – UUP
The DUP will benefit here from the withdrawal of the UKUP’s Robert McCartney, while the UUP may suffer from the Alliance Party’s decision to stand. I’m betting that potential Alliance voters may decide to stick with the UUP, but not with any confidence.
South Antrim – UUP
This seat has changed hands twice in the last five years. It says everything that David Burnside’s 1,011 majority now looks like one of the UUP’s safest.
South Belfast -SDLP
This looks like the most open contest of all. A three way fight in which Alex Maskey’s nascent Sinn Fein vote looks vulnerable to a squeeze. I’ve plumped for the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell to come through on a split unionist vote, but then I believed the SDLP when they said they would take West Tyrone in 2001.
Foyle – Sinn Fein
This pivotal struggle between the SDLP and Sinn Fein is one of the hardest seats to call. I’ve gone for Sinn Fein. Maybe I’ve learnt my lesson from West Tyrone after all.
Overall, I suspect that if anything I may have under-estimated the growth of the DUP. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take South Antrim, South Belfast or North Down. A total UUP wipeout could be a realistic possibility. An SDLP wipeout looks less likely than it did several months ago, and they could even hold Foyle.
For what it’s worth, and its worth very little indeed the numbers I put in for council seats were as follows:
DUP 150, SF 138, UUP 126, SDLP 96, Alliance 21, Others 51.