General Election 2017

FST preview: All set for three horse race at the finish

The media glare on Friday will be very much focused on Omagh and the fate of Fermanagh and South Tyrone candidate and DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Arlene Foster’s 8,801 first preference votes was the highest personal tally anywhere in the North last year.

But will the huge scrutiny over her leadership – largely centred around her handling of the RHI scandal – cost her at the ballot box?


Some sources in Fermanagh think not. Not in her own back yard anyway. In fact, there is a school of thought out there that Arlene Foster’s personal vote could even grow.

It’s hard to envisage, given the many questions and growing body of evidence over the £500m heating scandal and of late, the £425,000 Brexit donation.

But even if the party takes a slight hit, the DUP should hold its two seats in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Sinn Féin will also secure two.


Traditionally Fermanagh and South Tyrone is near the top of the voter turnout table.

Last year, against a Northern Ireland average of 54.9 per-cent, the constituency saw a turnout of 64.6 per-cent. Turnout will be up this week and with the reduction in seats available from six to five, it will likely leave a quota to secure election in the 8,000 plus region.

If the turnout approaches 2011 levels of 69 per-cent, or even 70+, the quota will be closer to 8,400-8,500.


That means three seats for either three nationalist MLAs or three unionist MLAs will require 24,000-25,000 votes.

Last year the combined vote of Sinn Féin and the SDLP was 22,861.

The DUP, UUP and TUV managed 22,595 first preference votes between them, with other parties taking 1,721 between them.

So it should be extremely close between the UUP, SDLP and a third Sinn Féin candidate for seat number five.

Last year’s performance puts the UUP well ahead in terms of first preference votes. Rosemary Barton will also likely enjoy the benefit of the TUV transfers.

Although he may start well behind at the first round, but Richie McPhillips and the SDLP should prove transfer friendly, keeping him in contention towards the end.

The last time Sinn Féin ran three in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew took a massive 9,110 votes. Too many from a strategic point of view.

Better vote management should see a more even distribution of Sinn Féin’s vote this week, keeping Jemma Dolan in the running for the latter stages.

The combined vote of Sinn Féin’s third candidate and Richie McPhillips should trump the UUP.

But it’s quite possible we will see a scenario like last year, with all three left in the running at the final stage, with Rosemary Barton just ahead of the two nationalist candidates.


Rosemary Barton (UUP)
Noreen Campbell (Alliance)
Jemma Dolan (Sinn Féin)
Richard Dunn (Conservatives)
Alex Elliott (TUV)
Arlene Foster (DUP)
Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin)
Tanya Jones (Green Party)
Sean Lynch (Sinn Féin)
Richie McPhillips (SDLP)
Maurice Morrow (DUP)
Donal O’Cofaigh (Cross-Community Labour Alternative)

Sinn Féin candidate in the Westminster by-election, Órfhlaith Begley, is urging people in the constituency to ensure they are...


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