Constituency profile: South Down

19 February 2017

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

South Down

In 1998, South Down returned three SDLP MLAs and one apiece from the UUP, the DUP and Sinn Féin. Five years later, Sinn Féin gained a seat from their nationalist rivals and, since then, the SDLP, DUP and Sinn Féin numbers have held. The UUP has always secured the remaining seat come election time but lost its representative when John McCallister, elected for the UUP at the 2007 and 2011 Assembly elections, left the party in 2013 to found NI21. Harold McKee would squeeze out McCallister (by then an independent) five years later. The eleven candidates standing in South Down on 2 March are listed below. 

Bradley, Sinéad


Brown, Patrick


Clarke, Patrick


Ennis, Sinéad

Sinn Féin

George, Hannah

Green Party

Hazzard, Chris

Sinn Féin

Hynds, Gary


McGrath, Colin


McKee, Harold


Rea, Lyle


Wells, Jim



At a glance

  • Caitríona Ruane will not be contesting her seat. The veteran Sinn Féin MLA has served at Stormont since 2003. Sinéad Ennis will run alongside incumbent Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard. Mr Hazzard is also the current Minister for Infrastructure.

  • Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have decided to only field two candidates per party. Consequently, Sinn Féin’s Michael Gray-Sloan and Seán Rogers (an SDLP MLA during the 2011-2016 mandate) are not listed on the 2017 ballot, as they were last year. The SDLP’s contestants are both outgoing MLAs: Sinéad Bradley and Colin McGrath.

  • The DUP’s Jim Wells and UUP’s Harold McKee were both successful nominees in May 2016.

  • Patrick Brown of the Alliance is the only other candidate to have featured in both elections. The TUV and Green Party, meanwhile, have both selected fresh names. The Conservatives did not run here in 2016 and Patrick Clarke is a new entry, replacing John McCallister as the sole independent.



Sinn Féin and the SDLP should be confident of securing one seat each, Chris Hazzard and Sinéad Bradley likely benefiting from incumbency. On the unionist side, the DUP must feel buoyed Jim Wells's topping of the poll in 2016.

The winners of the other seats are difficult to predict. There may still be hope for Harold McKee should he prove able to attract John McCallister’s votes from 2016, as well as transfers from the TUV and Alliance. Yet, with only 1.8 unionist quotas in total, this looks to be a very close race. Should McKee fail, the SDLP and Sinn Féin will feel confident of seeing their remaining candidates elected. If he retains his seat, then vote management, and Alliance and Green transfers, could help decide which nationalist candidate fills the last opening.