Sunday, 25 April 2010

Profile Number 2 - East Londonderry

Working my way around Northern Ireland in a semi-clockwise direction with the aim of finishing with North Antrim, we arrive at East Londonderry, primarily Unionist in political sentiment and consisting of the entire boroughs of Coleraine and Limavady, as well as two rural wards from Derry City Council (Banagher and Claudy), which have only just been attached to the constituency - their addition should do the SDLP vote in the area no harm. Formed in 1983 from the old Londonderry constituency, the seat was held by William Ross (UUP) until 2001, when he was defeated by Gregory Campbell - I well remember the comment at the time that Campbell's victory ironically meant things might get a tiny bit easier for David Trimble, as Ross was one of his most vocal opponents. East Londonderry formerly included most of Magherafelt District as well, but that transferred to Mid-Ulster in the 1995 boundary review.

I've always been a fan of East Londonderry; it's an absolutely beautiful area and Coleraine in particular is a wonderful little town where I've spent quite a bit of time. Gregory Campbell, the incumbent MP, has topped the poll at every Assembly election here since 1998 and wrested the seat from William Ross in 2001 by just over 2,000 votes, which increased to 7,700 in 2005. He remains a member of Derry City Council, and will be aiming for his third term in Westminster. David McClarty MLA has decided to run on this occasion and the Ulster Conservative and Unionist banner will be carried by Lesley Macaulay, a first time candidate with a strong background in community work in the area; Lesley is one of four female candidates we're running this time out. The Unionist fold is rounded off by the former MP, William Ross, who after a lifetime of UUP membership, joined with Jim Allister on the formation of the TUV and is currently that party's President. Ross was an MP for 27 years (he had previously been MP for Londonderry from 1974 until 1983, when he assumed the redrawn constituency). He is unlikely to win the seat, but has the capacity to poll well.

Nationalism is represented by the SDLP's Cllr Thomas Conway, a young farmer from the new wards in the constituency; he is a member of Derry City Council. Limavady councillor (and current Mayor) Cathal Hassan will fight the seat for Sinn Féin, and the ballot paper is rounded off by Alliance Coleraine councillor (and former police officer) Barney Fitzpatrick. Interesting to note that even Sinn Féin are slowly adopting a policy of not double jobbing and have opted not to run their MLA here, Billy Leonard.

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