South Down

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                Down North Down South Antrim South Belfast South Belfast South Down Strangford Upper Bann West Belfast West Belfast West Tyrone results graph
Map and diagram by Conal Kelly

This constituency takes in the largely rural south-eastern corner of Northern Ireland, including most of Down District Council, the eastern part of Newry and Mourne District Council, and a small part of Banbridge District Council. The MP has been SDLP party leader Margaret Ritchie since 2010; she succeeded Eddy McGrady (SDLP), who had defeated Enoch Powell (UUP) in 1987. The SDLP hold two Assembly seats, as do Sinn Fein, with the other two held by the UUP and DUP (Sinn Fein gained a seat from the SDLP in 2003). See the 1983-1992 South Down results, the 1973-84 South Down results and the 1950-1970 South Down results.

See spreadsheets from the 2011 Assembly election, the 2010 Westminster election, the 2007 Assembly election, the 2005 Westminster election, the 2003 Assembly election, the 2001 Westminster election, the 1998 Assembly election, the 1997 Westminster election and the 1996 Forum/talks election. See also the detailed guide from 2007 by "Sammy Morse".

The constituency lost the Ballynahinch area to Strangford in the 2010 changes, having previously lost the Dromore area to Lagan Valley and Saintfield to Strangford in the 1995 revision after a fairly brutal reduction in size in 1983. This made the new constituency 3.3% more Catholic, and 3.1% less Protestant than the old.

South Down's population (on the old boundaries) in the 2001 census was 104,658 (2nd of the 18 constituencies).

Results of recent elections using new boundaries


DUP UUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2011a
12.5% 10.6% 5.6% 2.1% 2.7% 35.8% 30.9%
2011lg
9.1% 13.2% 5.7% 2.2% 3.2% 35.7% 28.5%
2010w 8.6% 7.3% 3.5% 1.3% 2.1% 48.5% 28.7%
2007a
15.6% 8.5% 3.2% 1.6% 6.0% 32.9% 32.2%
2005w 16.1% 8.7%
1.3%
46.9% 27.0%
2005lg 13.0% 14.9%
1.1% 10.8% 34.8% 25.4%

NB that the figures for elections before 2010 are projections onto the new boundaries.Figures for the old boundaries can be found at the bottom of this page.
NB also that the Conservatives got 0.8% in 2007 (on the old boundaries) and supported the UUP in 2010.

2011 Assembly election (six seats)

Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) 8,506 (20.4%)
Caitriona Ruane (SF) 5,955 (14.3%)
Jim Wells (DUP) 5,200 (12.5%)
John McCallister (UUP) 4,409 (10.6%)
Willie Clarke (SF) 3,882 (9.3%)
Karen McKevitt (SDLP) 3,758 (9.0%)
Naomi Bailie (SF) 3,050 (7.3%)
Eamonn O'Neill (SDLP) 2,663 (6.4%)
Henry Reilly (UKIP) 2,332 (5.6%)
Cadogan Enright (Green) 1,107 (2.7%)
David Griffin (Alliance) 864 (2.1%)

@ member of the Assembly when it was dissolved.
SDLP 14,927 (35.8%, +2.8%) 2 seats
SF 12,887 (30.9%, -1.3%) 2 seats
DUP 5,200 (12.5%, -3.1%) 1 seat
UUP 4,409 (10.6%, +2.1%) 1 seat
UKIP 2,332 (5.6%, +2.9%)
Green 1,107 (2.7%, -0.9%)
Alliance 864 (2.1%, +0.6%)

Electorate: 73,240
Votes cast: 42,551 (58.1%); spoilt votes 825 (1.9%)
Valid votes: 41,276; quota: 5,961

With four women candidates out of eleven, this was the least gender-unbalanced ballot paper of any constituency in the election. (Neighbouring Newry and Armagh, by contrast, had an all-male line-up.) I had thought that one of the two Unionist seats here was vulnerable to demographic changes, but in fact there was sufficient residual strength - with transfers from the UK Independence Party - to ensure no change in party strength, O'Neill of the SDLP 465 votes behind his running-mate McKevitt and too far behind any others to calculate the margin.

2011 local government election

My attempt to project the votes cast in 2011 in this constituency, which includes four complete DEAs and straddles the boundaries of another five, gives me these figures:

SDLP 14680 (35.7%)
SF 11,715 (28.5%)
UUP 5,434 (13.2%)
DUP 3,756 (9.1%)
UKIP 1,910 (4.6%)
Green 1,349 (3.3%)
Alliance 920 (2.2%)
TUV 416 (1.0%)
Inds 896 (2.2%)

These votes, if cast in a six-seat STV contest, would certainly give the SDLP and SF two seats each, and the UUP one; it is not at all clear who would win the last, probably between the DUP and a third SDLP candidate.

2010 Westminster election (one seat)

@Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) 20,648 (48.5%, +1.7%)
@Caitriona Ruane (Sinn Féin) 12,236 (28.7%, +1.7%)
@Jim Wells (DUP) 3,645 (8.6%, -7.5%)
@John McCallister (UCUNF) 3,093 (7.3% -1.5%)
Ivor McConnell (TUV) 1,506 (3.5%)
Cadogan Enright (Green) 901 (2.1%)
David Griffin (Alliance) 560 (1.3%, ±0%)
Electorate: 70,784; Total Poll: 42,840 (60.5%); Invalid Votes: 251 (0.6%); Valid Votes: 42,589

@ elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly from this constituency

The SDLP's new leader, Margaret Ritchie, can feel content that she actually improved the SDLP vote here. If cast in a six-seat Assembly election, these votes would give the SDLP three seats, SF two and the DUP one, thus an SDLP gain from the UUP.

2007 Assembly Election (7 March, six seats)

Full details of each count are available here.

*Caitriona Ruane (SF) 6334 (13.7%)
*Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) 5838 (12.7%)
*P.J. Bradley (SDLP) 5652 (12.3%)
*Jim Wells (DUP) 5542 (12.0%)
*Willie Clarke (SF) 5138 (11.1%)
John McCallister (UUP) 4447 (9.6%)
Michael Carr (SDLP) 2972 (6.4%)
Eamonn McConvey (SF) 2662 (5.8%)
William Burns (DUP) 2611 (5.7%)
Ciaran Mussen (Green) 1622 (3.5%)
Henry Reilly (UK Independence Party) 1229 (2.7%)
David Griffin (Alliance) 691 (1.5%)
Martin Cunningham (Independent) 434 (0.9%)
Frederick Wharton (UKUP) 424 (0.9%)
Peter Bowles (Conservative) 391 (0.8%)
Malachi Curran (Labour) 123 (0.3%)

*Elected in 2003 from South Down
SDLP 14,462 (31.4, -3.7%) 2 seats
SF 14,134 (30.7%, +4.2%) 2 seats
DUP 8,153 (17.7%, +2.7%) 1 seat
UUP 4,447 (9.6%, -8.6%) 1 seat
Green 1,622 (3.5%, +1.8%)
UKIP 1,229 (2.7%)
Alliance 691 (1.5%, +0.4%)
Cunningham 434 (0.9%)
UKUP 424 (0.9%, +0.4%)
Conservative 391 (0.8%)
Labour 123 (0.3%)

Electorate 71,704 
Votes cast 46,623 (65.0%); spoilt votes 513 (1.1%) 
Valid votes 46,110; quota 6,588

No change in the distribution of spoils, but SF are breathing down the SDLP's necks, and the DUP are within shouting distance of geting both Unionist seats. On the last count McCallister (UUP) was pushed comfortably over the quota and 3838 votes ahead of Carr (SDLP) by DUP transfers. 507 undistributed transfers from elected Nationalist candidates make little difference to the picture.

2005 Westminster election (5 May, 1 seat)

*Eddie McGrady (SDLP) 21,557 (44.7% -1.6%)
@Caitriona Ruane (Sinn Fein) 12,417 (25.8% +6.1%)
@Jim Wells (DUP) 8,815 (18.3% +3.3%)
@Dermot Nesbitt (UUP) 4,775 (9.9% -7.7%)
Julian Crozier (Alliance) 613 (1.3% +/- 0.0.%)

* outgoing MP.
@ Member of the Assembly

If these votes were cast in a six-seat STV election, the SDLP would win three seats, and SF and the DUP one each. The last seat would be most likely to go to SF.

2005 Local Government Election (5 May)

The constituency comprises 20 of the 23 wards in Down (all 5 wards in the Ballynahinch DEA, all 7 wards in the Downpatrick DEA, all 6 wards in the Newcastle DEA, and 2 of the 5 wards in the Rowallane DEA [Crossgar and Kilmore]); and 13 of the 30 wards in Newry and Mourne (all 7 wards in the Crotlieve DEA, all 5 wards in the Mournes DEA, and 1 of the 6 wards in the Fews DEA [Donaghmore]); and 4 of the 17 wards in Banbridge (3 of the 6 wards in the Knockiveagh DEA [Bannside, Katesbridge and Rathfriland] and 1 of the 5 wards in the Dromore DEA [Ballyward])

SDLP 16,290.1 (34.5%)
Sinn Fein 11,396.2 (24.1%)
UUP 7,417.5 (15.7%)
DUP 7,231.8 (15.3%)
Green 1,650.8 (3.5%)
Alliance 535.2 (1.1%)
WP 97 (0.2%)
Independents 2,622 (5.6%)

These votes, if cast in a six-seat STV election, would porbably give the SDLP and SF two seats each, and the UUP and DUP one each.

2003 Assembly election (26 November; six seats)

Also available: details of each count with analysis of surplus transfers.
*Jim Wells (DUP) 6789 (15.0%)
*Dermot Nesbitt (UUP) 5368 (11.8%)
*P.J. Bradley (SDLP) 5337 (11.8%)
Catriona Ruane (SF) 5118 (11.3%)
Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) 4261 (9.4%)
Willie Clarke (SF) 4083 (9.0%)
*Eamonn O'Neill (SDLP) 3942 (8.7%)
Jim Donaldson (UUP) 2885 (6.4%)
Eamonn McConvey (SF) 2806 (6.2%)
Marian Fitzpatrick (SDLP) 2382 (5.3%)
Raymond Blaney (Green) 799 (1.8%)
Trudy Miller (NIWC) 565 (1.2%)
Neil Powell (Alliance) 489 (1.1%)
Nelson Wharton (UKUP) 245 (0.5%)
Malachi Curran (Ind) 162 (0.4%)
Desmond O'Hagan (WP) 115 (0.3%)
SDLP 15,922 (35.1%, -10.2%) 2 seats
SF 12,007 (26.5%, +11.4%) 2 seats
UUP 8,253 (18.2%, +3.8%) 1 seat
DUP 6,789 (15.0%, +5.6%) 1 seat
Green 799 (1.8%)
NIWC 565 (1.2%, -2.0%)
Alliance 489 (1.1%, -1.8%)
UKUP 245 (0.5%, -4.5%)
Ind 162 (0.4%)
WP 115 (0.3%, +/-0.0%)

Electorate 70,149 
Votes cast 46,012 (65.6%); spoilt votes 666 (1.4%) 
Valid votes 45,346; quota 6,479 

Initial reaction: One of several seats where SF gained from the SDLP. On the final count, 542 votes of Nesbitt's surplus of 1847 (originally votes from Jim Donaldson) went fairly evenly split between the SDLP candidates, 17 evenly between the two SF candidates, and the other 1288 non-transferable. Had the SDLP candidates got twice as much from the UUP they would both have been ahead of SF's Clarke for the last seat. As it was Margaret Ritchie edged out incumbent Eamonn O'Neill by the second smallest margin of the election, 36 votes.

South Down had lost 9.54% of its electorate in the great electoral register shake-out, varying from 17.60% in the Bracken and Kilbroney ward of Newry and Mourne to 4.55% in the Rathfriland ward of Banbridge. 6 constituencies lost fewer voters, 11 lost more.

2001 Westminster Election (7 June; 1 seat)

*@Eddie McGrady (SDLP) 24,136 (46.3%)
@Mick Murphy (Sinn Fein) 10,278 (19.7%)
@Dermot Nesbitt (UUP) 9,173 (17.6%)
@Jim Wells (DUP) 7,802 (15.0%)
Betty Campbell (Alliance) 685 (1.3%)

Electorate: 73,519; votes cast: 52,648 (71.6%); spoilt votes: 574 (1.0%)
Valid votes: 52,074; SDLP majority 13,858

* outgoing MP
@ Member of the Assembly

No surprise in the result, though again the increase in the SF vote was striking. A six-seat Assembly election here would give the SDLP three seats and the other three big parties one each.

2001 Local Government Election (7 June)

The constituency comprises 20 of 23 wards in Down (all 5 wards in the Ballynahinch DEA, all 7 wards in the Downpatrick DEA, all 6 wards in the Newcastle DEA, and 2 of the 5 wards in the Rowallane DEA); 13 of 30 wards in Newry and Mourne (all 7 wards in the Crotlieve DEA, all 5 wards in the Mournes DEA, and 1 of the 6 wards in the Fews DEA); and 4 of 17 wards in Banbridge (3 of the 6 wards in the Knockiveagh DEA and 1 of the 5 wards in the Dromore DEA). Votes cast in 2001 were roughly as follows:

SDLP 20450.7 (40%)
SF 10235.8 (20%)
UUP 9820.0 (19%)
DUP 6933.2 (14%)
UKUP 193.5 (0.4%)
WP 115 (0.2%)
NIUP 9 (0.02%)
Independents 3388.6 (7%)
Total valid 51145.8

Extrapolating from the local government elections is very difficult because the South Down constituency breaches no less than four local electoral area boundaries. If we make some reasonable adjustments, we get the figures above for the whole South Down constituency. These would give the SDLP three seats, and Sinn Fein, the UUP and the DUP one each.

1998 Assembly Election (25 June; six seats)

Also available: details of each count with analysis of surplus transfers.
 
*Eddie McGrady (SDLP) 10,373 
*Mick Murphy (SF) 6,251 
P.J. Bradley (SDLP) 5,571 
*Dermot Nesbitt (UUP) 5,480 
Jim Wells (DUP) 4,826 
*Hugh Carr (SDLP) 3,731 
Eamonn O'Neill (SDLP) 3,582 
Frederick Wharton (UKU) 2,576 
Norman Hanna (UUP) 1,939 
Anne Carr (NIWC) 1,658 
George Graham (Unionist) 1,562 
Garret O'Fachtna (SF) 1,520 
Anne-Marie Cunningham (All) 1,502 
#Malachi Curran (Lab) 498 
Desmond O'Hagan (WP) 130 
Patrick O'Connor (Ind Lab) 121 
Thomas Mullins (NLP) 33 
SDLP 23,257 (45.29%) 3 seats
SF 7,771 (15.13%) 1 seat
UUP 7,419 (14.45%) 1 seat
DUP 4,826 (9.40%) 1 seat
UKU 2,576 (5.02%) 
NIWC 1,658 (3.23%) 
Unionist 1,562 (3.04%) 
Alliance 1,502 (2.92%) 
Lab 498 (0.97%) 
WP 130 (0.25%) 
Ind Lab 121 (0.24%) 
NLP 33 (0.06%) 

Electorate: 71,027 
Votes cast: 52,342 (73.7%); spoilt votes 989 (1.9%) 
Valid votes: 51,353; quota: 7,337

* elected in 1996 Forum/talks election from South Down
# elected in 1996 Forum/talks election as a 'top-up' candidate.

Not a surprising result, but a good one for the SDLP in what is now their second strongest constituency. As in neighbouring Newry and Armagh, the UUP won only one seat despite having held this constituency at Westminster until 1987. Hugh Carr, the runner-up, was almost a thousand votes adrift of his running-mate Eamonn O'Neill (by 5,187 to 6,163) with surpluses of 53 votes from Bradley and 833 from Wells left undistributed.

1997 Local Government Election

Social Democratic and Labour Party 17,515.1 (43%)
Ulster Unionist Party 10,176.9 (25%)
Sinn Féin 4,015.2 (10%)
Democratic Unionist Party 3,899.2 (10%)
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 1419.8 (3%)
Women's Coalition 430 (1%)
Labour 327 (1%)
Workers Party 210 (1%)
Green Party 113 (0.28%)
Others 2,330 (6%)
Total valid 40708.5 (57.91%)

1997 Westminster Election (one seat)

*ƒEddie McGrady (Social Democratic and Labour Party) 26,181 (53%) Best result for SDLP in Northern Ireland
ƒDermot Nesbitt (Ulster Unionist Party) 16,248 (33%)
ƒMick Murphy (Sinn Féin) 5,127 (10%)
Julian Crozier (Alliance Party of Northern Ireland) 1,711 (3%)
Rosaleen McKeon (Natural Law Party) 219 (0.44%)
Turnout 49,486 (70.84%)

* outgoing MP
ƒ member of the Forum

1996 Forum Election (five seats)

Also available: full list of 1996 candidates

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 20,220 (43%) 3 seats (Edward McGrady, Hugh Carr, Margaret Ritchie elected)
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) 10,379 (22%) 1 seat (Dermot Nesbitt elected)
Sinn Féin (SF) 6,142 (13%) 1 seat (Mick Murphy elected)
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 5,060 (10%)
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) 1,685 (4%)
Labour (Lab) 927 (2%)
Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) 497 (1%)
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition (NIWC) 464 (1%)
Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) 404 (1%)
Green Party 251 (1%)
Conservative Party (Con) 197 (0.42%)
Workers Party (WP) 162 (0.35%)
Ulster Independence Movement (UIM) 130 (0.28%)
Democratic Partnership 117 (0.25%)
Democratic Left (DL) 65 (0.14%)
Natural Law Party (NLP) 30 (0.06%)
Independent Chambers 18 (0.04%)

Electorate: 69,035; votes cast: 46,891 (67.9%); spoilt votes: 143 (0.3%); valid votes: 46,748

McGrady had been elected to the 1973 Assembly, the 1975 Convention, and the 1982 Assembly from South Down.

Results 1996-2007


DUP UUP Oth U Alliance Oth SDLP SF
2007a
18% 10% 4% 1% 5% 31% 31%
2005w 18% 10%
1%
45% 26%
2005lg 15% 16%
1% 10% 34% 24%
2003a 15% 18% 1% 1% 4% 35% 26%
2001w 15% 18%
1%
46% 20%
2001lg 14% 19% 0%
7% 40% 20%
1998a 9% 14% 8% 3% 5% 45% 15%
1997lg 10% 25%
3% 8% 43% 10%
1997w
33%
3% 0% 53% 10%
1996f 10% 22% 2% 4% 5% 43% 13%

See also: Full 2003 results from South Down | Full 1998 results from South Down | The Boundary Commission's Provisional Recommendations | Boundary Commission 2003 | Jim Riley's analysis of votes and seats in the 1998 Assembly election | The constituencies

Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey

Your comments, please! Send an email to me at nicholas.whyte@gmail.com.
 
This page has been developed with the support of a project grant from the New Initiatives Fund of the Electoral Commission. However, any views expressed on this page or, in particular, other pages of this website are those of the author and not necessarily shared by The Electoral Commission.

Nicholas Whyte, 3 June 1998; last updated 8 May 2010.



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