Derry Girls is on TV but the Stormont election is no laughing matter for politicians under pressure

It’s the show everyone’s talking about – and, unsurprisingly, Derry Girls has been dragged into the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election.

On April 7, while attending the premiere of the latest episodes of the hit Channel 4 show, Maoliosa McHugh, a Sinn Féin candidate in the general election, posted a photo on Twitter of himself and three party colleagues under a specially posted ‘You’ ‘re a Derry girl now’ sign in the city’s Guildhall Square.

McHugh described two of his colleagues running in Derry constituencies as “our Derry girls”.

SDLP’s Brian Tierney, who is running as a candidate in the Foyle constituency, which consists primarily of Derry City, reposted the tweet, stressing that none of Sinn Féin’s “Derry Girls” were actually from the city.

Call for a predictable Twitter storm before Tierney removed his tweet.

As the stars of Derry girls could say to James ‘the little Englishman’ welcome to politics in Northern Ireland.

Whatever the excitement created by the return of Lisa McGee’s comedy series, the May 5 Stormont election will be no laughing matter for many politicians fighting for the 90 seats in the Stormont Assembly.

There have been many predictions about what will happen – Northern Ireland has more political commentators than Sister Michael after all Derry girls has punchlines. The only sure prediction is that no one really knows what’s going to happen. Elections in Northern Ireland have a habit of throwing up surprises.

The last Stormont election in March 2017 followed the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister – a decision that led to the collapse of Northern Ireland’s executive branch.

The 2017 election came just a year after the previous general election and was the first election following the decision to reduce the number of seats in the assembly from 108 to 90.

The 2017 election was a disaster for unions.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which secured 38 seats in the 2016 election, lost 10 seats, while the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which won 16 seats in 2016, was only able to hold 10 seats in the 2017 election.

Sinn Féin won 27 seats in the 2017 election, up from 24 in 2016, and just one behind the DUP.

The remaining seats in the 2017 general election went to: Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) (12); Alliance Party (8); Green Party (2), Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) (1) and Independents (1).

The main question ahead of this election is who will be the largest party in Stormont after May 5th?

With only one seat between Sinn Féin and the DUP, every seat is crucial; that Sunday independent takes a look at some of the constituencies where seats have been won or lost for the two main parties.


A former soldier is expected to play a key role in the fight for the only union seat in the Foyle constituency.

In 2017, the DUP won a fifth seat in the largely nationalist constituency, with their candidate Gary Middleton receiving 5,975 preferential votes.

Although the UUP candidate received just 1,660 votes in 2017, the DUP is secretly concerned about the possibility of losing its seat here.

The main reason for this is the emergence of a new UUP candidate in Ryan McCready, a former British Army soldier.

McCready is a former DUP councilor on Derry City and Strabane District Council who left the party last year after party leader Arlene Foster was ousted.

The aftermath of Foster’s treatment, and the subsequent bitter DUP leadership contest between Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots, has deeply divided the party and is expected to have an impact on voting booths.

The TÜV is also putting up a candidate in this constituency for the first time, which is likely to further destroy the votes of the trade unionists.

There were also predictions that Sinn Féin could lose one of its two seats after a highly divisive reorganization of the party’s operations in Derry last year. As part of the changes, Sinn Féin’s two incumbent Foyle MLAs, Martina Anderson and Karen Mullan, have been asked to step down from their positions.

Sinn Féin’s two candidates, Ciara Ferguson and Pádraig Delargy, are both newcomers to frontline politics – so the SDLP, which is running three candidates in the constituency, believes their party has a chance of a third seat.


Doug Beattie, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

north below

As the election results come in, the North Down constituency will also be among the most closely watched. In 2017, the DUP won two seats here, the UUP, the Alliance and the Greens the others.

However, one of the successful DUP candidates of 2017, Alex Easton, who also left the party last year, is running as an independent this time. Taking a personal vote away from the DUP would be a major blow to the party’s efforts to retain its two seats.

The Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry won the North Down seat in the 2019 Westminster election, securing the party’s highest ever share of the vote in a general election. If that support carries over to next month’s poll, Alliance hopes it could win a second seat here.

south belfast

The constituency where the DUP’s Edwin Poots will hope to bring a happy ending to a devastating few months.

After winning the DUP leadership election after Arlene Foster was ousted, Poots was humiliatingly resigned 21 days later following a revolt within the party.

He was elected MLA for the Lagan Valley constituency in 2017, but the DUP decided party leader Jeffrey Donaldson and former First Minister Paul Givan would be their two candidates in Lagan Valley this time.

Poots failed to secure a South Down nomination but was fielded as a South Belfast candidate following the tragic death of DUP MLA Christopher Stalford earlier this year.

The fact that Poots is the only DUP candidate in a constituency where the party’s two candidates garnered nearly 9,000 preferential votes in the 2017 general election should earn him a seat.


SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and vice chairman Nichola Mallon

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The SDLP hopes to take one of Sinn Féin’s three seats in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

In the 2017 election, the SDLP lost to Sinn Féin for the third seat by just 62 votes and will be pushing for their sole candidate, Adam Gannon, to reverse that result.

However, Sinn Féin again has three candidates and does not want to give up this third place without a fight.

The other two seats in the constituency are held by the DUP and UUP and this is not expected to change – although questions have been raised about the UUP’s decision to field two candidates instead of the 2017 candidate.

A familiar face missing from this year’s election is Arlene Foster, who topped the 2017 poll. She will be on the other side of the fence this time in her new role as presenter and commentator at GB News.


TUV leader Jim Allister, TUV South Down candidate Harold McKee and DUP representative Jim Wells

North Antrim

The struggle within the unions will be very evident in this long-standing DUP heartland.

In 2017, the DUP won two seats here, while TÜV, UUP and Sinn Féin secured the others.

All five successful MLAs of 2017 are up again this time, and there will be many familiar names on the ballots.

Sinn Féin will expect to retain its seat, so the main question will be how the differences between union factions will affect voters.

In 2017, the DUP fielded three candidates, but this time they’re only fielding two in order to focus their vote and keep what they’ve got.

TUV, whose chairman Jim Allister has been North Antrim’s MLA since 2011, will field two candidates, as will the UUP, which fielded just one candidate in 2017.

Robin Swann most recently won a seat for the UUP here and has enjoyed a high profile in recent years as Health Secretary in the fight against the Covid pandemic.

With each of the union parties nominating two candidates, the result is seen as a key barometer of the current state of unions.


Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s Stormont boss

Sinn Féin enjoys strong support in several constituencies, but the party knows it will have to fight to retain its current number of seats.

In west Belfast, Sinn Féin currently has four of the five seats – but there are predictions that the SDLP will be on the verge of taking one of them.

Sinn Féin has three seats in both the Newry, Armagh and West Tyrone constituencies and while its support there is expected to hold up well there could still be a big fight to emerge unscathed.

A total of 239 candidates will run – 11 more than in 2017. Sinn Féin has the most candidates with 34, followed by the DUP with 30. The UUP has 27, the Alliance has 24 and the SDLP has 22.


DUP boss Jeffrey Donaldson

The TUV has 19 candidates, the Greens 18 and People Before Profit 12. Aontú also has 12 candidates, the Workers Party has six and the Progressive Unionist Party three. The Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Socialist Party each have two candidates.

The Northern Ireland Conservatives, Cross-Community Labor Alternative, Resume NI and Heritage Party each field one candidate. There are also 24 independent candidates in the 18 constituencies.

Politics is a brutal business, so think of candidates knocking on your door — unlike Sister Michael, who famously told that Derry girls: “If anyone is anxious or worried, or if you just want to chat, please, You’re welcome, Don’t come to me crying.” Derry Girls is on TV but the Stormont election is no laughing matter for politicians under pressure

Fry Electronics Team

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