There are 18 seats up for election in Northern Ireland in this week’s General Election. Here’s a look at who’s running and who stands to win or lose. Any outcome - both in Northern Ireland and in the UK as a whole - will have major implications for the future of Northern Ireland as we look ahead to Brexit.
A safe seat for Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey if ever there was one: Gerry Adams was once the local MP (Member of Parliament) in this the most republican part of Northern Ireland. For three elections in a row, the party won with over 70% of votes cast - although its fortunes waned a little in 2015.
The only upset possible in this seat already happened a couple of weeks ago when a Sinn Féin councilor labeled the People Before Profit candidate Gerry Carroll “Gerry the Brit”, seemingly for saying he would take his seat if elected - Sinn Féin traditionally abstain from taking their seats at Westminster. Something about an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen.
Once the seat of former First Minister Peter Robinson, the seat was unexpectedly won in 2010 by Naomi Long of the centrist and cross-community Alliance Party. Long narrowly lost the seat in 2015 to the Democratic Unionist Party’s candidate; two years on she’s standing again and her unashamedly pro-EU stance have seen her endorsed by Open Britain - a group that grew out of last year’s remain campaign.
But the seat sided with their local Brexit-backing MP, Gavin Robinson, in last year’s vote and opted to leave the EU by 51% to 49%. If the Alliance can topple Robinson it will be a good night for them indeed.
Sinn Féin is fielding John Finucan, the son of murdered attorney, Pat Finucane, in this traditionally unionist seat that the DUP’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, has held for 16 years. Commentators say an upset might be on the cards in a seat which has become slowly more nationalist in recent years.
Dodds polled 47% of the vote two years ago against Sinn Féin who won 34% in a seat that voted by 50.4% to stay in the EU. And although Sinn Féin surged in this spring’s Assembly elections, they still polled behind the DUP in first preference votes.
Belfast’s most middle-class seat; the current MP is Alastair McDonnell from the moderate nationalist SDLP.
McDonnell only won by a 906 vote margin over the DUP in 2015 but that was before Brexit and in a seat that voted by nearly 70% to remain in the EU, he’s pitching hard for pro-EU voters; where Sinn Féiners proudly fly the tricolor, the SDLP’s posters are adorned with the blue and gold of the EU flag.
However, his pro-life views scuppered any chance of a pact with the equally europhile Alliance Party and with abortion rights increasingly on the political agenda in Ireland, he will likely find many pro-EU voters who might otherwise have voted for him opt for the Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw instead.
Former Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is standing for Sinn Féin and could conceivably pull off a win; he topped the poll in the Assembly elections early this year.
Attorney Emma Pengelly is standing for the DUP and is considered to have only an outside chance. That said, even in this hugely anti-Brexit seat, a DUP win cannot be counted out if nationalists split their votes been the SDLP and Sinn Féin, allowing Pengelly to come through the middle.
For 40 years this steadfastly unionist seat in the sprawling and beautiful Antrim countryside was represented by Ulster’s most iconic son, Ian Paisley. Now the seat is held by his son, Ian Paisley Jr, and few expect to wake up on June 9 and find that’s changed.
Two years ago three-quarters of voters cast their ballots for unionist parties and 62% heeded the DUP’s call to quit the European Union last year - the highest percentage for leave anywhere in the province.
Like its neighbor to the west, East Antrim is a unionist bastion and backed Brexit by a comfortable 55% of the vote, too.
It’s MP, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson is expected to be returned again with a healthy majority.
Again, an overwhelmingly pro-union seat but unlike the other two Antrim seats, South Antrim is a marginal seat between the DUP and the UUP
The DUP held the seat for ten years but narrowly lost it in 2015. They’ll be itching to win it back and will put a lot of effort in too.
The seat backed Brexit by a slim 50.6% margin but as the UUP (which originally backed a remain vote) have said they accept the result, expect a pro-Brexit MP either way.
The most unionist seat in Northern Ireland: Sinn Féin polled a mere 273 votes in the last election - only 0.8% of the vote - and the SDLP did little better.
Unusually, it is represented by an independent. Lady Sylvia Hermon was originally elected as a UUP MP for the prosperous seat in 2001 but became an independent after the UUP formed an alliance with the British Conservative Party. The left-wing Lady then stood again with no party label and won handsomely.
Her former party still regards her as an “Ulster Unionist in spirit” and won’t be standing against her.
But she will, however, face a challenge from the DUP - Hermon voted against a motion to trigger Article 50 in Parliament this year i.e. formally begin divorce negotiations with the EU. The DUP will be hoping that the 48% of her constituents who voted to leave the EU will be sufficiently irate with her they’ll switch to their more eurosceptic, muscular brand of unionism.
Local sources insist she’s popular enough with her constituents to withstand the challenge.
Jeffrey Donaldson was elected by this solidly unionist seat on the outskirts of Belfast for the UUP in 1997.
In 2003 he resigned from the party - citing David Trimble’s leadership. In 2004 he joined the DUP along with the party’s current leader, Arlene Foster, and he’s been there ever since.
His constituents stuck with him after he switched party labels and there seems little chance they’ll swap him for someone else this time around.
Another unionist seat that the DUP will expect to hold comfortably. The seat is a mixture of Co. Down rural and coastal communities and Belfast suburbs.
The seat voted comfortably to leave the EU last year and although the UUP once held the seat, they’re not expected to make much of a play for it this time.
Just as Strangford in the north of the county is resolutely unionist, so South Down is overwhelmingly nationalist.
In common with all nationalist seats, it voted strongly against Brexit and saw a Sinn Féin surge in March’s Assembly election.
But despite the Sinn Féin’s popularity in the Assembly election, the favorite for the seat is the incumbent, Margaret Ritchie. Ritchie is a former SDLP leader and has fought off Sinn Féin challenges for a seat her party has held for 30 years.
But the republican party is feeling buoyed up by its recent successes and feel this could finally be their year.
Newry and Armagh
To the west of Down, it’s a slightly different story: Another overwhelmingly nationalist seat but one with a long history of voting Sinn Féin.
South Armagh was well known as a hotbed of provisional activity during the Troubles and its allegiance to Sinn Féin is unlikely to shift this time around.
This seat in North Armagh hugs the banks of Loch Neagh, voted by 53% to leave the EU and was once held by David Trimble.
Despite his high profile as Northern Ireland’s first First Minister, Trimble lost the seat in 2005 to the DUP, then firmly establishing itself as the majority voice of unionism.
The margin of victory for the party, however, has never been huge and a good night for the UUP could see it reclaim this picturesque former party bastion.
But the DUP increased its share of the vote in the recent Assembly election and the party seems to feel confident it can do the same in this election, too.
You’d be a brave man or woman to bet on anyone other than Sinn Féin winning this strongly republican seat.
The constituency is large, rural and takes in a large chunk of Tyrone and a few parishes in Derry. For years Martin McGuinness represented the area and Sinn Féin’s current northern leader, Michelle O’Neill, does so now at Stormont.
Party veteran, Francie Molloy, is standing for re-election and in a seat where over 60% voted against Brexit, he probably won’t have had many sleepless nights since the election was called.
Like its neighbor, Mid Ulster, to the south, East Londonderry is large, rural and voted to remain in the European Union.
Unlike Mid Ulster, however, East Londonderry is also staunchly unionist and has been held by the DUP since 2001.
It voted by 52% to remain in the European Union - making it one of the few Unionist parts of Northern Ireland to vote to stay in the 28-nation bloc.
Despite most locals disagreeing with their MP’s views on Brexit, the DUP are still expected to win on Thursday with no problems.
For generations, Sinn Féin has longed to win this seat that takes in the City of Derry and beyond.
Derry has long been a nationalist fortress and now it’s also a bastion of pro-European thought. Aside from Gibraltar - a small British Overseas Territory nestled on the southern tip of Spain - nowhere else returned a stronger vote to remain in last year’s referendum. Only 22% opted to leave the EU and opinion will not have shifted much since.
Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP are in favor of staying in the EU, so it’s just a case of which pro-EU party takes the seat.
The time the seat that once sent John Hume to Westminster looks on the verge of breaking with generations-long tradition of support for the SDLP and choosing a Sinn Féiner instead.
The republican party outpolled the SDLP for the first time in Derry in this year’s Assembly election and party activists will be pulling a shift in an attempt to do so again.
The SDLP’s leader, Colum Eastwood, told the Irish News, “We will retain the Westminster seat. I have no doubt about that.”
But Sinn Féin believes the death of local man Martin McGuinness will see a groundswell of sympathy for the party and carry them to victory. The seat is certainly one to watch.
A rural Sinn Féin stronghold on the border with Donegal, the seat voted two to one to remain in the EU and the party is expected to hold the seat.
The incumbent, Pat Docherty, is stepping down and local Assembly member, Barry McElduff is vying to replace him.
He’s made something of a name for himself posting some less serious videos on social media and as his election is probably assured, his constituents can look forward to, or endure, more of them for some years yet.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
In 2010 the Sinn Féin candidate won the seat by four votes against an independent unionist - the smallest margin of victory in the whole United Kingdom.
In 2015 the seat flipped and Tom Elliott of the UUP won it from Sinn Féin by 530 votes.
Once again, the DUP aren’t standing to allow the UUP man to have a clear run at the seat but even though the nationalist vote is split between Sinn Féin and the SDLP there’s no guarantee Elliott will make it two in a row.
Sinn Féin surged in the recent Assembly election and many nationalists will be fired up by Brexit in a seat that voted by 59% to stay in the European Union.
Elliott ignored his party leadership on the issue of Brexit when he voted to leave the EU last year; now he may well lose his seat in a wave of pro-EU votes.
PREDICTION: DUP 8, Sinn Fein 5, SDLP 2, UUP 2, Independent Unionist 1.
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