This week we shift the spotlight across the Irish sea to one of the four constituencies in the Northern Irish capital. A series of electoral pacts, unique local politics and the inevitable Brexit dividing line means that we could have chosen any of the four, but our eye has been drawn to Belfast North.
The DUP’s Nigel Dodds has held the seat since 2001 and renews his rivalry with Sinn Fein’s John Finucane, who he defeated by just over 2,000 votes in 2017. Both are significant figures within their respective parties. Dodds is theDUP’s Westminster and Deputy Party Leader, whilst Finucane is the current Lord Mayor of Belfast and comes from a family of prominent nationalist figures.
What makes Belfast North so intriguing is the multitude of factors at play within a single constituency. It voted very narrowly to remain in the 2016 referendum and the ongoing Brexit deadlock has played its part in electoral pacts on both sides. The UUP has U-turned to stand down in the constituency to avoid splitting the Unionist vote, while the SDLP and the Greens (who combined to poll over 2,500 votes in 2017) both stood aside to allow Sinn Fein a freer run at the nationalist and remain vote. Although the third and final candidate in the race, the Alliance’s Nuala McAllister, has set her sights firmly on the constituency’s significant remain leaning voters.
Throw into the mix a small majority, opposing stances on the recent changes to abortion and same sex legislation in Northern Ireland, and existing tensions that have already seen condemnation over posters attacking the Finucane family and controversy over the role of convicted IRA bomber Sean Kelly in theSinn Fein campaign team, and this is definitely one constituency to watch.