In the shadow of two political heavyweights

Fine Gael have yet to formalise its line up in the North Longford area ahead of this year's local elections.
Fine Gael have yet to formalise its line up in the North Longford area ahead of this year's local elections.

Candidates in this Thursday’s election will fight for their seats in the shadow of two political heavy weights - John Dallat and Gregory Campbell.

SDLP stalwart John Dallat and the DUPs MP Gregory Campbell, both revealed earlier this year that they would not be standing in the Assembly elections. Dallat opting for retirement from politics and Campbell is unable to stand due to his role as a DUP MP.

Hoping to take up their seats will be current Causeway Coast and Glens SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan and former Coleraine Mayor, and a DUP Coleraine councillor for 19 years, Maurice Bradley.

In the constituency of East Londonderry, there are a total of 17 candidates fighting for six seats: Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Fein), Jordan Armstrong (TUV), Yvonne Boyle (Alliance), Maurice Bradley (DUP), Aaron Callan (UUP), Stuart Canning (Conservatives), Tor Christie (Independent), Amber Hamill (Green Party), David Harding (Conservatives), William McCandless (UUP), Adrian McQuillan (DUP), Gerry Mullan (SDLP), Cathal óhOisín (Sinn Fein), Steven Parkhill (UKIP), Claire Sugden (Independent), Russell Watton (PUP).

A handful of the candidates will be hoping to retain their seats: Claire Sugden, who was co-opted in to replace David McClarty following his death in April 2014 is running as an independent; the DUPs Adrian McQuillan, who was first elected as an MLA back in 2007, and Sinn Fein’s Cathal O’hoisin, who has been an MLA since 2001.

McQuillan claimed 7.6 percent of the votes in the 2011 election gaining 2,633 votes, whilst O’hoisin polled better with 4,681 votes.

One candidate, who admits he will be ‘shocked’ if he is elected, is a former Coleraine Ulster Unionist councillor, David Harding.

He defected to the Conservative Party. Harding, a former Mayor of Coleraine, quit the UUP last year, saying that he had “lost faith in political parties in Northern Ireland and their ability to deliver”. Now Mr Harding - who in the last Assembly election claimed 1,458 votes in East Londonderry, has joined the Tories, and is the only Conservative councillor in the Province.

Fighting for the UUP in East Londonderry are two current Causeway Coast and Glens councillors, William McCandless and Aaron Callan. The party failed to take up a seat in the last election. The failure, many believe was down to the deselection of sitting MLA David McClarty, who went on to gain a seat as an Independent candidate.