Constituency profile: West Tyrone

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. Next up is West Tyrone.

West Tyrone

Both in 2011 and 2016, the West Tyrone constituency returned three Sinn Féin MLAs, one DUP, one UUP and one SDLP. This pattern is certain not to be repeated with only five seats available in next month’s Assembly election. The constituency’s candidate list for May 2016 broke records for featuring the most candidates (18). A reduced list of fifteen candidates standing on 2 March is set out below.


Boyle, Michaela

Sinn Féin

Brown, Barry


Buchanan, Thomas


Chittick, Charlie


Clarke, Alicia


Donnelly, Stephen


French, Corey


Lomas, Roger


McAleer, Declan

Sinn Féin

McAnespy , Sorcha


McClean, Ciaran


McCrossan, Daniel


McElduff, Barry

Sinn Féin

McMackin, Roisin


White, Susan-Anne



At a glance

  • Sinn Féin is running only three contestants compared to the four it stood in May 2016 – Grace McDermott is absent from the ballot paper. Party colleague Declan McAleer pipped her to the post by just 10 votes last year.

  • The most notable absence from the candidate list is Ross Hussey, who last month announced his retirement from political life on health grounds. The UUP has put forward newcomer Alicia Clarke in an attempt to retain the solitary UUP seat Hussey had held since 2011. Her unionist competitors in the race are the DUP’s Thomas Buchanan, who will be confident of a return to the Assembly. Meanwhile, Buchanan’s one-time party colleague Charlie Chittick fronts the TUV’s first foray into this largely rural constituency.

  • For the SDLP, the May 2016 contest in West Tyrone was dogged by a string of resignations in a dispute over the naming of the party’s candidate. Daniel McCrossan – elected last time out – has been nominated once again. Patsy Kelly and Josephine Deehan, both of whom previously ran as independents after resigning from the SDLP, have chosen not to stand in this election, which may see some of their votes move to the SDLP.

  • The Conservatives are once again backing Roger Lomas, in spite of his last-place, 44-vote finish last time round.



The five outgoing MLAs running for re-election are hopeful that their reputations and profiles can serve them well on polling day. Thomas Buchanan topped the poll for the DUP last year and he is now the party’s sole candidate, with a quota of just over 1.3.

Three Sinn Féin MLAs have represented the constituency since 2007; however, they are now competing on reduced margins at a quota which we calculate would have been 2.52 in 2016 for five spots, making the third seat vulnerable.

Daniel McCrossan must wait to see if his share of the vote increases now that former SDLP colleagues are absent from the race. Alicia Clarke of the UUP has said she will not be following leader Mike Nesbitt’s example of transferring a second preference to the SDLP. That said, she may be hoping for SDLP transfers as she battles to gain one of the five seats. It also remains to be seen if Stephen Donnelly can help a Naomi Long-led Alliance Party to a shock in the Sperrins.

A feature of the May 2016 election was the fall in turnout, and the nationalist vote in particular. West Tyrone and the neighbouring Fermanagh and South Tyrone saw the largest reduction (4 per cent) compared to 2011. The deciding factor in who loses out in West Tyrone, then, may lie in nationalist voting numbers.