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Where and what is 'South Antrim'?

South Antrim constituency map

South Antrim consists of all of the former Borough of Antrim, half of the former Borough of Newtownabbey and the previous Glenavy ward of Lisburn. It stretches from the Northern suburbs of Belfast at Upper Monkstown over twenty five miles westwards to Toome on the River Bann, and from the fringes of Kells and Connor in the north to beyond Stoneyford in the south, as well as the North-Eastern portion of Lough Neagh. There are over 60,000 electors.

The largest group of electors are in the Belfast suburban communities - part of Glengormley, as well as Carnmoney, Mallusk and Mossley, with the other main concentrations of population being in Antrim town, with 15,000 electors, and Ballyclare, with 8,000. The constituency also includes the towns and villages of Ballyeaston, Ballynure, Ballyrobert, Crumlin, Doagh, Dundrod, Glenavy, Parkgate, Randalstown, Stoneyford, Straid, Templepatrick and Toome.

South Antrim Map image supplied by Ordnance Survey Election Maps Service

Image reproduced with permission of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland

Representation and elections

The constituency returns one member of the House of Commons in London (by the X vote) and five (until 2016 six) members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (by the superior method of proportional representation by the Single Transferable Vote). Electors number the candidates in order of their choice, 1, 2, 3, etc and candidates achieve election by reaching the quota of one-sixth of the votes cast. As well as first preference votes, candidates can benefit from transfers from the elimination of those candidates with the fewest votes or from surplus votes held by candidates who have already been elected.

Who represents South Antrim?

The current MP (Paul Girvan) a member of the DUP, won the Westminster seat from Danny Kinahan of the UUP in 2017. Assembly representation is shared between different parties.

In 1998, in addition to David Ford, South Antrim returned Jim Wilson (UUP), Wilson Clyde (DUP), Norman Boyd (UKUP, later NIUP), Donovan McClelland (SDLP) and Duncan Shipley Dalton (UUP). In 2003, Duncan Dalton stepped down and was replaced by David Burnside, Paul Girvan (DUP) captured Norman Boyd's seat and Thomas Burns beat Donovan McClelland for the SDLP seat.

In 2003, David Ford's seat was directly targeted by Sinn Féin, who fielded a leading North Belfast member, Martin Meehan. Although Martin Meehan started ahead of David, by the final stage of the count, David was ahead by the narrow margin of 181 votes. He had picked up over 1500 votes from other candidates of all parties during the count.

At the election on 7 March 2007, David Ford's vote increased significantly and he was elected third of the six MLAs (previously sixth in both 1998 and 2003). Mitchell McLaughlin (Sinn Féin) was elected first, taking the seat that had eluded Martin Meehan. William McCrea MP (DUP) was a close second. Behind David Ford came David Burnside (UUP), the DUP's Trevor Clarke and Thomas Burns(SDLP) who fended off the strong challenge from Mel Lucas (DUP).

Both Wilson Clyde and Paul Girvan were deselected by the DUP and Jim Wilson retired, leaving David Ford the senior representative of South Antrim at Stormont.

In May 2011, David Ford's vote increased further and he was just 44 votes short of the quota on the first stage of the count. The DUP's Pam Lewis gained the seat previously held by Thomas Burns of the SDLP, joining David Ford, Trevor Clarke and Paul Girvan (DUP), Mitchell McLaughlin (SF) and Danny Kinahan (UUP) - who had replaced David Burnside during the previous term.

The May 2016 poll saw David Ford again returned. He was joined by Paul Girvan, Pam Cameron and Trevor Clarke (DUP) as well as Declan Kearney (Sinn Fein) and Steve Aiken (UUP)

In March 2017 the number of seats available was reduced from 6 to 5. In this election David Ford was returned comfortably alongside Paul Girvan and Pam Cameron (DUP), Declan Kearney (Sinn Fein) and Steve Aiken (UUP).

Working for South Antrim

On constituency matters, MLAs have frequently worked together in support of local people. There are also strong links with the two local Councils and many community groups within South Antrim.

In 2015 Antrim Borough Council and Newtownabbey Borough Council merged as Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Lisburn City Council merged with Castlereagh Borough Council. .

Northern Ireland election results

Full details of recent elections can be seen on the Northern Ireland elections web site maintained by my (studiously impartial) friend Nicholas Whyte. An analysis of South Antrim, with (slightly inaccurate) predictions for the 2007 contest is available from 'Sammy Morse'.

Northern Ireland Elections: South Antrim

Sammy Morse's take on the constituency