Assembly Election 2016: Change is coming to East Derry

John Dallat
John Dallat

The 2016 Assembly Election will guarantee new faces in the East Derry contest since two of its biggest vote catchers are not on the ballot.

Veteran SDLP man John Dallat revealed to the ‘Journal’ after the Westminster Election last year he would be retiring and giving up the journey from Kilrea to Stormont after 18 years.

Gregory Campbell

Gregory Campbell

The DUP’s Gregory Campbell gave up his Assembly seat to focus on his role as MP.

The other big name associated with the constituency was that of Independent, the late David McClarty.

Following his death in April 2014, constituency worker Claire Sugden was co-opted. May 5th will be her first big election contest.

In all, there are 17 candidates contesting six seats in East Derry.

It is a constituency that takes in a vast swathe of the North Coast, stretching from Faughanvale in County Derry along the shores of Lough Foyle to Coleraine and the north coast, including the seaside towns of Portrush and Portstewart.

Traditionally, the key areas are the towns of Coleraine, Dungiven and Limavady.

The area has suffered many hard knocks in terms of employment over the years.

There were close 1,000 job losses in Limavady at the former Seagate site in Aghanloo, the impact of the recession on the local construction industry and the closure of the DVLNI Office in Coleraine.

However, many hoping the grim employment outlook will take a turn for the better with the recent positive announcements about the sale of Shackleton Barracks to Co Down manufacturing firm MJM who plan to bring 100 jobs initially.

There is also the welcome news the Department of Agriculture headquarters will be located at the Shackleton site in Ballykelly.

Sinn Fein will field two candidates in this election, outgoing MLA Cathal O’hOisin and his running partner, Caoimhe Archibald who contested the Westminster Election last year, unsuccessfully.

Observers believe O’hOisin wil hold the seat for Sinn Fein, while Caoimhe Archibald is looking to snatch the seat held by outgoing MLA John Dallat.

The SDLP candidate is Gerry Mullan, a councillor in the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough, and formerly Limavady Borugh Council.

The former Limavady Mayor contested the Westminster Election last year, unsuccessfully, and is expected to hold the SDLP seat in East Derry.

With the absence of Gregory Campbell, the DUP’s Maurice Bradley, a former Coleraine Mayor, is running for the party with outgoing assembly member, veteran politician George Robinson from Limavady and outgoing DUP MLA, Adrian McQuillan.

George Robinson is contesting his fourth Assembly election. The Limavady man has served three terms in Stormont and is expected to retain his seat again this time around.

The Ulster Unionist Party will be hoping to make gains in the constitency with their candidates William McCandless and Aaron Callan, both councillors in Causeway Coast and Glens borough.

The UUP men will have their eyes on a breakthrough in East Derry, perhaps at the expense of the DUP, or Independent Claire Sugden.