Constituency profile: North Down

21 February 2017

In the run-up to the 2017 Assembly election we are taking a detailed look at the 18 constituencies around Northern Ireland. Today we focus on North Down.

North Down

In 2016, the DUP retained its three seats in North Down. The trio of outgoing MLAs – Alex Easton, Gordon Dunne and Peter Weir – was returned. The UUP’s Alan Chambers represented a new face in the Assembly at the beginning of the last mandate. He was elected following the retirement of party veteran Leslie Cree. It was another successful election for the Greens here, as leader Steven Agnew almost doubled his gain from 2011. Having picked up 2,207 first-preference votes five years previously, Agnew banked 4,109 to take the second seat in May. The 12 candidates standing in North Down on 2 March are listed below.


Agnew, Steven

Green Party

Carter, Chris


Chambers, Alan


Cudworth, William


Dunne, Gordon


Easton, Alex


Farry, Stephen


Kennedy, Melanie


Maxwell, Kieran

Sinn Féin

McNeill, Caoímhe


Reynolds, Gavan


Shivers, Frank



At a glance

  • In an election where the number of returned MLAs will be reduced from 108 to 90, the DUP’s influence in North Down is likely to wane somewhat: Peter Weir, the Education Minister, has been moved from the constituency he has served since 1998 (when he was elected as an Ulster Unionist) to Strangford. Keen to consolidate rather than be seen to lose a seat, perhaps, the party is fielding two candidates, rather than three, in the constituency.

  • As it did a decade ago, the Alliance Party will stand a single nominee. Dr Stephen Farry, a former Employment and Learning Minister, has represented North Down at Stormont since his election in 2007. His running mate last May was North Down and Ards councillor Andrew Muir.

  • Alan Chambers will seek to return to the Assembly after only 10 months in the job. He is joined on the UUP ticket by William Cudworth, making it one less UUP candidate on the ballot compared to the 2016 contest. .

  • Sinn Féin is attempting to hit the 400-vote mark in North Down, something it has not achieved at any Assembly election.



Having trimmed its offering from three to two, the DUP should look forward to seeing both Gordon Dunne and Alex Easton returned to the Assembly. Peter Weir’s relocation to Strangford could make room for potential UUP gains, though significantly out performing 2016’s showing will be necessary if outgoing MLA Alan Chambers is to be joined at Stormont by William Cudworth.

A traditionally unionist heartland (no nationalist has ever been elected), North Down continues to provide a space for centrist, moderate and even progressive outlooks. Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, now in her 16th year at Westminster, enjoys an enviable cross-community majority, and the Alliance Party would be genuinely alarmed if its message does not resonate in this prosperous, solidly middle-class constituency. Dr Stephen Farry was first elected in 2007 and, in spite of his sixth-place finish last May, should expect to make the top five on 2 March.

Green Party stalwart Stephen Agnew, meanwhile, can only be buoyed by an impressive 2016 turnout, his 4,109 first-preference votes surely instilling confidence that he will not miss the final cut this time around.